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Prolific TV Director John Rich, 86, Dies

John Rich, a “legendary television director” in the estimation of the president of the Directors Guild of America, died today at his home in Los Angeles. He was 86.

Rich had directed 41 episodes of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and the pilot and other episodes of “All In The Family,” Other legendary TV shows of the 1960s and ’70s under his direction were “The Brady Bunch” and “Gilligan’s Island,” and along with Henry Winkler, he produced “MacGyver.”

The DGA had made Rich an Honorary Life Member. The guild announced today that he died at his home of heart failure after a brief illness.

“No one who ever sat in a meeting with John will ever forget his stories about the early days of the guild or his lovably salty sense of humor,” DGA president Taylor Hackford said in a statement today.

Hackford recalled that a forerunner of the directors guild was just being organized by movie industry luminaries like Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock and others when Rich — “this brash, young television wunderkind” — griped that no TV directors were included. “The very next day, John got a call that they had appointed him,” Hackford said, “as an alternate member of the board.”

After becoming a member of the movie-oriented Screen Directors Guild in 1953, Rich was instrumental in its merger with the Radio and Television Directors Guild into the DGA in 1960, and served more than 50 years on the DGA board. After his retirement, he served as chairman of the Directors Guild Foundation.

But Rich made a bigger mark on the industry through his work on the sets. He helped set up the now-legendary live TV broadcast at the dedication of Disneyland in 1955, which put the ABC television network on the air.

He directed some of the “Mister Ed” and “Gilligan’s Island” shows in the dawn of television, and moved on to three-camera film and then helped pioneer live audience TV sitcom work.

He won an Emmy for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and won two Emmys, two DGA awards and two Golden Globes for “All In The Family.” He was busy in the ’70s on the Norman Lear shows “Maude” and “The Jeffersons,” as well as “Good Times” and “The Brady Bunch.” Later he worked on “Where’s Raymond?”

His movie credits include a pair of Elvis Presley vehicles, “Easy Come, Easy Go” and “Roustabout.”

The DGA bestowed its highest honors to Rich, including the Robert B. Aldrich Award in 1993 “for his extraordinary service to the guild and its membership,” and a 2003 Honorary Life Member Award.

Under his leadership, the DGA never had a strike, Rich told interviewers. And he was most proud to have established a union pension fund that eventually topped $2.5 billion in assets.

The guild said Rich was survived by his wife, Patricia Dodds Rich, children Catherine Rich, Anthony Rich and Robert Rich, and step-children Megan Lewis, Kimberly Beres, and Dana Benton, and eight grandchildren.

No plans for services have been announced.

Copyright © 2012 City News Service

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