Director Arthur Penn, who worked heavily in television during the 1950s, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 88. He lived just long enough to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy-Nixon television debates this past Sunday. Penn coached Senator John F. Kennedy for the debates, telling him “to look directly into the lens of the camera and keep his responses brief and pithy,” according to The New York Times. Although best known directing Bonnie and Clyde, Penn got his start directing live television dramas like The Gulf Playhouse, The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Playwrights ’56 and Playhouse 90.
He directed “The Miracle Worker,” written by William Gibson, in February of 1957 for Playhouse 90, with Teresa Wright and Patricia McCormack, and was nominated for an Emmy award for Best Direction. He then directed the 1959 stage version, which won several Tony awards, followed by the 1952 film version, which won several Academy awards (Penn was nominated for Best Director) Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke starred in both the stage and film versions. In 1967 he directed the aforementioned Bonnie and Clyde and earned his second Academy Award nomination for Best Director. His third would come in 1969 for Alice’s Restaurant.
According to his Internet Movie Database entry, in 1999 he acted in two episodes of the syndicated action/adventure series BeastMaster, playing a character named Ketzwayo. His last credit as a director is for a 2001 episode of 100 Centre Street, which aired on cable channel A&E. He executive produced the first 13 episodes of Law & Order during the 2000-2001 season, its 11th; the series was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series that season but lost to The West Wing.