Screenwriter Robert Dozier, who worked both in film and television, penning Otto Preminger’s “The Cardinal” and working as a writer and producer on David Janssen TV series “Harry O,” died Jan. 6 at his home on Martha’s Vineyard (Mass.) after a long illness. He was 81.
Dozier began work as a screenwriter during the golden age of television. His first big success came with the 1955 script for “Deal a Blow,” the semi-autobiographical story of a conflicted relationship between an overbearing father and his son that aired live on CBS. He adapted that script into director John Frankenheimer’s 1957 film “The Young Stranger.”
During the 1950s and early 1960s Dozier also wrote for anthology shows such as “Studio One in Hollywood,” “Four Star Playhouse” and “G.E. True Theater.”
Dozier championed the underdog in his work, as in, for example, the 1957 “Kaiser Aluminum Hour” segment “A Real Fine Cutting Edge,” the story of soldiers who must deal with the constant bullying of a sergeant based on Dozier’s experiences in the Army.
After penning episodes of “Thriller” and “Have Gun — Will Travel,” Dozier saw two films released in 1963: Ronald Neame’s “I Could Go on Singing,” starring Judy Garland, for which he received story credit, and “The Cardinal,” for which he adapted the screenplay from Henry Morton Robinson’s novel. The latter concerned a Boston-born priest struggling against the hatred and prejudice he sees in society.
Dozier continued in television, writing episodes of “Batman” in 1966 (his father, William Dozier, was producer of the show) and of “Dan August,” starring Burt Reynolds, in 1970. Later he wrote episodes of the original “Hawaii Five-O.”
He adapted Elmore Leonard’s novel for the 1969 film “The Big Bounce,” starring Ryan O’Neal. His adapted script for 1972’s “When the Legends Die” concerned an American Indian on the rodeo circuit.
In addition to “Harry O,” he was producer of television series including “The Contender,” “Inspector Perez,” “Sweepstakes” and “The Devlin Connection” with Rock Hudson.
He also wrote telepic scripts including “Incident in San Francisco,” for ABC; “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” for CBS; and “Pursuit” for ABC.
Robert James Dozier grew up in Hollywood. His father was a TV producer who started as a literary agent in Los Angeles, so when Dozier was young, he listened in as writers including F. Scott Fitzgerald bantered back and forth in the family’s living room.
After graduating from Beverly Hills High School, Dozier spent some time at Brown U.; during service with the U.S. Army in Germany, he made documentaries for the signal corps.
He retired from showbiz in 1989.
During his career he helped nurture the Writers Guild to help protect writers and raise their standing.
Dozier is survived by his wife, actress Diana Muldaur; three sons, Harold, Aaron and Brendan, from his first marriage; his sister Deborah Dozier Potter, daughter of stepmother Joan Fontaine; his stepmother of more than 50 years, actress Ann Rutherford, and her daughter Gloria May.
Donations may be made to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute for Prostate Cancer Research, care of Dr. Taplin, or Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.