Michael Campus, director of seminal African-American dramas “The Mack” and “The Education of Sonny Carson,” died May 15 at his Encino home of natural causes. He was 80.
Campus, a Manhattan native, graduated from U. of Wisconsin and served as a U.S. Army lieutenant in Berlin after WWII. He broke into the business as a writer-producer on “PM East/PM West” late-night talk show hosted by Mike Wallace and Joyce Davidson, then joined ABC Television’s special projects division to work on documentaries such as “Saga of Western Man,” “Meet Comrade Student” and “India the Troubled Giant.”
Campus later became director of special programs at CBS, where he supervised over 150 specials including “Horowitz at Carnegie Hall,” Hal Holbrook’s “Mark Twain Tonight” and Peter Hall’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He worked for David Suskind’s Talent Associates and produced “Ages of Man,” starring John Gielgud.
Campus also wrote and produced “The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains” and produced “Code Named Wolverine” and “Hiroshima.”
In 1973, Campus directed “The Mack,” starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor,” one of the most successful blaxploitation films of the era. “The Mack” was honored by film Independent in 2013 with a 40th anniversary screening with Quentin Tarantino providing his personal print.
Campus directed 1974’s “The Education of Sonny Carson,” based on the political activist’s 1972 autobiography. His other big-screen directing credits include 2008’s “The Christmas Cottage,” starring Peter O’Toole, Marcia Gay Harden and Jared Padelecki.
He was a member of the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Campus is survived by his widow and business partner Arla Dietz Campus and his brother Peter Campus. Private funeral services have been set for June 13.