Arthur Penn (1922-2010)

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.

Obituaries can be found at The New York Times, NPR and Entertainment Weekly.

3 Replies to “Arthur Penn (1922-2010)”

  1. What is known about Penn’s 1968 television production Flesh and Blood? It has an IMDB page that lists a glittering cast: Edmond O’Brien, Kim Stanley, Robert Duvall, E.G. Marshall, Kim Darby, and Suzanne Pleshette. It was apparently an original teleplay by William Hanley, who had two plays on Broadway in the 1965-1966 season and who wrote many subsequent television movies and won a couple of Emmys. The only review of Flesh and Blood that a researcher friend of mine could find was a brief notice in Theology Today, which described it as a “two hour disaster.” There appears to have been a piece in the Washington D.C. Evening Star as well, which is quoted at, “The Playwrights Database.” The teleplay was published as a Random House hardcover in 1968; I have not seen this volume yet, but I plan to order a copy from a second-hand bookseller, and I hope it contains photographs from the production, as such volumes often do. Do you have any additional information about Flesh and Blood? I do not even know what network this show was broadcast on (or was it perhaps on public television?).

  2. Thanks very much! I wish the Google News site worked better in my Opera browser; I think I’ll have to use Internet Explorer to read those pieces.

    I’m trying to find out if the telecast survives. The UCLA Film and Television Archive does not appear to have it; I’m in communication with the Paley Center for Media, which has a cryptic listing in its online catalogue, “Flesh and Blood (TV),” without any details. NBC itself would be the next place for me to check.

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