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Emmy-Winning Director Joseph Sargent Dies at 89

Joseph Sargent, director of “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” and winner of four Emmys and four DGA Awards, died Monday at his home in Malibu of complications from heart disease. He was 89.

Sargent worked until he was 84. His credits included “Something The Lord Made,” “Warm Springs” “MacArthur,” “The Incident,” “Playing For Time,” “Miss Rose White” “Miss Evers’ Boys” and “Love Is Never Silent.”

He and his wife Carolyn helped co-found Deaf Theatre West as also founded the Free Arts Clinic For Abused Children. He won a Genesis Award for “The Last Elephant.”

Sargent worked during his last decade as the senior filmmaker-in-residence for the directing program at the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles and as the first professor of a masters program in film directing at Pepperdine University in Malibu, where Sargent and his wife Carolyn have resided for 40 years.

“When it comes to directing Movies for Television, Joe’s dominance and craftsmanship was legendary — for the past 50 years,” said Directors Guild of America president Paris Barclay.

“With eight DGA Awards nominations in Movies for Television, more than any other director in this category, Joe embodied directorial excellence on the small screen.” Barclay said. “He was unafraid of taking risks, believing in his heart that television audiences demanded the highest quality stories – whether chronicling uncomfortable historic events like the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study in ‘Miss Evers’ Boys,’ or compelling personal stories about inspiring individuals like heart surgery pioneers Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas in ‘Something the Lord Made.’ His biographies demonstrated an exactitude for period accuracy while simultaneously infusing historical figures with true-to-life spirit and passion.  Joe once said that he was ‘drawn to projects possessing ‘edge’ — material that can make some comment or contribution to the condition of man,’ and it is this ‘edge’ that is his enduring directorial legacy.”

He was born Giusseppe Daneiele Sorgente in Jersey City, New Jersey. He served as a teenage GI volunteer in Western Europe in World War II; after the war, he began studying as an actor studying at the Actors’ Studio.

He gained experience in episodic TV, first as an actor and finally getting directory opportunities in “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” “Lassie,” “The Fugitive,” “Star Trek” and “The Man From Uncle.  He won his first Emmy directing the pilot episode of “Kojak,” a film entitled “The Marcus-Nelson Murders.”

Sargent is survived by his widow Carolyn Nelson Sargent, two daughters, Lia Sargent and Athena Sargent Sergneri (from a prior marriage to Mary Carver), and by nieces Charlotte and Emma Nelson.

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