Hal Kanter, the Emmy-winning comedy writer behind the groundbreaking series Julia, has died. He was 92.
Kanter died Sunday of complications from pneumonia at California's Encino Hospital, his daughter, Donna Kanter, told the Los Angeles Times.
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"What a dear man," friend Carl Reiner said. "He was considered one of the wits of the industry; there's no question about it. Any time he was called upon, he always could make the audience laugh. He was a funny elder statesman, and there's nothing better than having a witty elder statesman."
A Georgia native, Kanter got his start in radio in the 1930s before joining The Ed Wynn Show as head writer in 1949. He created The George Gobel Show in 1954, winning an Emmy for best written comedy material a year later.
But it was in 1968 when Kanter made TV history after he created Julia, starring Diahann Carroll as a widowed nurse and single mother. It was the first TV series to feature an African-American actress playing a professional woman instead of a domestic worker.
The NBC series was not carried in the South during its first few weeks, but the local stations were eventually forced to carry it after it became a hit.
Kanter's other TV credits include Valentine's Day, The Jimmy Stewart Show, Chico and the Man and All in the Family.
On the big screen, he frequently wrote for Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis and Elvis Presley, including Road to Bali (starring Hope and Bing Crosby), Pocketful of Miracles (starring Lewis and Dean Martin), and Presley's Loving You and Blue Hawaii.
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He also adapted Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo, which earned Anna Magnani a Best Actress Oscar.
Kanter's longest-running job, though, was writing for the Oscars, which he did at least 33 times, starting in 1952 when the ceremony still aired over the radio. He and fellow Oscar show writers shared Emmy wins in 1991 and 1992.
In 1989, Kanter received the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television from the Writers Guild of America.
Besides his daughter Donna, Kanter is survived by his wife of 70 years, writer Doris Kanter; two other daughters, Lisa and Abigail; his sister, Saralea; and a granddaughter.