Lamont Johnson, whose acting career was vastly overshadowed by his award-winning work as a director, passed away on October 24th at the age of 88. He started his career in radio and on stage before moving to film and television in the late 1940s/early 1950s, appearing in episodes of programs like The Loretta Young Show, Climax and The Millionaire. In November of 1955, he directed an episode of NBC’s daytime anthology series Matinee Theater; he had earlier directed theatrical productions. The episode was an adaptation of Wuthering Heights that starred Richard Boone. Johnson would later direct a number of episodes of Boone’s Have Gun – Will Travel. Other programs Lamont directed in the late 1950s and early 1960s included Steve Canyon, Mr. Lucky, The Twilight Zone and Peter Gunn. He shared a Directors Guild of America Award for a 1964 episode of Profiles in Courage; over the course of his career he was nominated for ten DGA Awards and won four.
Johnson was nominated for his first Emmy Award for 1970’s My Sweet Charlie, an made-for-TV movie starring Patty Duke and Al Freeman Jr. that addressed racial tension and prejudice. In 1972, he directed That Certain Summer, an installment of ABC Movie of the Week starring Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen. It is considered the first television production to maturely relate a homosexual relationship. Johnson later directed Sheen in The Execution of Private Slovik, a 1974 made-for-TV movie based on the true story of an army soldier executed for desertion. All three telefilms were written and produced by Richard Levinson and William Link.
Johnson received a total of 11 Emmy nominations over the course of his career and won two, the first in 1985 for Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story (another NBC made-for-TV movie) and the second in 1988 for Lincoln (an NBC miniseries starring Hal Holbrook). His feature film directing credits include The Last American Hero and Lipstick. He was interviewed in 2003 by the Archive of American Television; here’s the first portion of that interview: