August 24, 2013

Ted Post Dead at 95

Director for Film and Television

Ted Post, a prolific director who collaborated with Clint Eastwood on two hit films, directed hundreds of episodes of television series like"Gunsmoke," "Peyton Place" and "Rawhide," and made a low-budget film about the Vietnam War that was widely ignored when it was released in 1978 but is now regarded by many critics as one of the best in its genre, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 95. His son, Robert, confirmed the death.

Mr. Post directed Mr. Eastwood in two of his hyper-violent action films: the 1968 western "Hang 'Em High," the first American movie Mr. Eastwood made after gaining fame in Italian westerns like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"(1966); and "Magnum Force," the 1973 police thriller that was the second of the"Dirty Harry" films.

The two men became friends in the early 1960s during filming of "Rawhide," the CBS television series in which a young Mr. Eastwood starred. They had a well-publicized falling-out over directorial control while making "Magnum Force" but renewed their friendship in later years, Mr. Post's son said.

Mr. Post worked as a director from the late 1940s to 1999, when he made his last film, "4 Faces," a low-budget feature. He made 13 feature films, including "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" (1970); "The Harrad Experiment," a mildly controversial film about college sex (1973); and "Stagecoach," a 1986 made-for-TV remake of the classic 1939 western, with Kris Kristofferson in the role originally played by John Wayne.

For television, he directed 56 episodes of the CBS western "Gunsmoke," 90 episodes of the prime-time ABC soap opera "Peyton Place" and innumerable segments of "The Twilight Zone," "Wagon Train," "Route 66," "Perry Mason," "The Defenders," "The Rifleman" and other shows.

Among film buffs Mr. Post was probably best known for "Go Tell the Spartans," set during the Vietnam War and based on the 1967 novel "Incident at Muc Wa," by Daniel Ford.

Burt Lancaster starred as an American Army major who carries out orders to secure a remote jungle outpost in 1964 despite his fears that the mission will end badly, as it does. Mr. Lancaster put up his own money when budget problems threatened the film before it was completed.

On its release in 1978, "Go Tell the Spartans" received respectful reviews in major newspapers and a few raves. Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic called it "the best film I've seen about the Vietnam War." But appearing in theaters at virtually the same time as the better-financed and better-publicized Vietnam films "Coming Home" and "The Deer Hunter," it failed at the box office.

"Spartans" began receiving a second look when the influential film quarterly Cineaste published an article in 1983 comparing it favorably to "The Deer Hunter," "Coming Home" and Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 epic, "Apocalypse Now." The article, by the film historian Rob Edelman, helped spur the movie's re-release in 1987.

Upon the re-release, the film historian Burt Cadullo wrote, "It's time that this film received the recognition it deserves," but "Spartans" still performed poorly in theaters.

Mr. Post — known to his family only as Ted — was born on March 31, 1918, in Brooklyn to Jacob and Dena Post, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine who took the name Post when they arrived in the United States. Mr. Post attended public schools and worked at various jobs before starting his show business career in 1938 as an usher at Loew's Pitkin Theater in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn.

He studied acting briefly, but soon began directing plays in New York. Among his first productions were one-acts performed by members of the Laundry Workers Industrial Union in New York, a 1942 production of an antitotalitarian play called "The Fascist's Holiday," and several dramas for the American Negro Theater. During World War II Mr. Post served in the Army directing music and theater productions for the troops.

He taught acting and theater arts in the 1950s at the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan (now called the Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts) and, in later years, at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Besides his son, Robert, the dean of the Yale Law School, Mr. Post is survived by his wife of 72 years, Thelma; a daughter, Laurie Post; a brother, Joe; a sister, Ruth Post; and four grandchildren.

Reflecting on his career in a 2001 interview for the archive of the Directors Guild of America, Mr. Post said that while he was always grateful for the work, he realized after about 10 years of directing westerns like "Gunsmoke" and "Rawhide" that he was not that fond of horses.

"I'd get home and have to use horse's soap to get the odor away," he said. "When I started neighing instead of shouting, 'Action!' — well, that's when I decided it was time for a change."

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