Hollywood comedy writer Hal Kanter dies at 92

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hal Kanter, an Emmy-winning comedy master who wrote for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, directed Elvis Presley in "Loving You" and created Diahann Carroll's ground-breaking TV sitcom, has died. He was 92.

Kanter died Sunday, according to the Writers Guild of America, where he had been a member since 1950 and served on the union's board of directors. Daughter Donna Kanter told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/vXH8Ck) he died from pneumonia complications at Encino Hospital.

His three Emmys included back-to-back wins for 1991-92 as a writer for the Academy Awards, a ceremony on which he contributed material on 32 separate shows over the decades.

Kanter also won an Emmy in 1955 for "The George Gobel Show," and he received four other nominations, including one as executive producer of "All in the Family" in 1976 and another for outstanding comedy series for Carroll's "Julia" in 1969.

"If there was a funnier writer than Hal I never knew him," said "All in the Family" creator Norman Lear. "The irony is laughing at him added time to my life."

"Julia" was a television landmark, depicting a black professional woman as a series lead in an era that generally cast black actors as domestic help.

"If I could do a television show that depicted blacks as people and not as black people, it might do some good," Kanter recalled in a 2002 interview.

Kanter also wrote the 1952 Hope and Crosby adventure "Road to Bali," and his 1950s big-screen work also included Hope's comedies "My Favorite Spy" and "Casanova's Big Night." In 1976, Hope hired Kanter as his head writer.

Born Dec. 18, 1918, in Savannah, Ga., Kanter broke into show business as a gag writer, contributing material to Crosby's radio show, "The Danny Kaye Show" and other radio programs before moving into television as a writer on "The Ed Wynn Show" in 1949.

Kanter wrote for another big-screen comedy team, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, on 1953's "Money from Home" and 1955's "Artists and Models." He ventured into drama with the 1954 film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo."

As he moved into directing in the late 1950s, Kanter initially was reluctant to take on one of the era's biggest stars.

"Somebody had asked me if I wanted to do a picture with Elvis Presley. I said, 'Oh God, no. Why?'" Kanter recalled in 2002. "And my three daughters said, 'Daddy, Elvis Presley!' And I realized I was in big trouble if I didn't do that picture."

Kanter wound up directing and co-writing 1957's "Loving You," which featured the title track and Presley's hit "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear." He later wrote another Presley musical romance, 1961's "Blue Hawaii."

Among Kanter's other credits were Marilyn Monroe's "Let's Make Love" (1960), Bette Davis' "Pocketful of Miracles" (1961) and Doris Day and James Garner's "Move Over, Darling" (1963).

In 1999, Kanter published an autobiography, "So Far, So Funny: My Life in Show Business."

Kanter is survived by his wife of 70 years, writer Doris Kanter; his daughters Donna Kanter, Lisa Kanter Shafer, and Abigail Kanter Jaye; his sister, Saralea Emerson; and a granddaughter.


Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

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