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James Sheldon, Prolific TV Director, Dies at 95

TV director James Sheldon, who worked on hundreds of shows including “The Millionaire,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Fugitive,” “Batman” and many more, died March 12. He was 95.

His son, Tony, told the New York Times that Sheldon died of complications from cancer at his Manhattan home.

Sheldon once estimated that he directed about 1,200 episodes of television over his long career. Among them are 44 episodes of “The Millionaire,” an entire season of “The Bing Crosby Show” and several episodes of “Room 222,” “Love, American Style,” “That Girl,” “The Fugitive” and “My Three Sons.” He also directed the pilot of “Family Affair.”

His career also included six episodes in the second and third seasons of “The Twilight Zone,” featuring such classics as “I Sing the Body Electric” and “A Penny for Your Thoughts.” He helmed an episode of “Batman” in 1966, featuring Julie Newmar as Catwoman.

The helmer had a unique role in the career of James Dean, who he directed in “Harvest,” a Thanksgiving family drama. Sheldon recommended Dean to star in series “I Remember Mama” after the show’s star Dick Van Patten was set to leave for military service — however, Van Patten was declared unfit for service and stayed with the series.

Among Sheldon’s many other credits are “The Virginian,” “Death Valley Days,” “Armstrong Circle Theatre,” “Wagon Train,” “Zane Grey Theatre,” “Studio 57,” “Naked City,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Perry Mason,” “The Waltons,” “M*A*S*H*” and “Cagney & Lacey.” He never directed a feature film.

Manhattan native Sheldon, born Leonard James Schleifer, was accepted by the University of North Carolina’s resident theater company, the Carolina Playmakers, after high school.

He would go on to become a page, then tour guide, at NBC in the early ’40s. His first TV job came when he worked for a host of interview series “We, the People.” He then got a regular spot on “Mr. Peepers.”

Sheldon is survived by his two sons, Tony and James Jr., and three grandsons.

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