Richard McWhorter, Legendary Assistant Director, Dies at 100
He worked with King Vidor, Frank Capra, Cecil B. DeMille and Hal Wallis and was there at the onset of the first directors guild.
Richard McWhorter, a longtime assistant director and unit production manager who served alongside the likes of King Vidor, Frank Capra and Cecil B. DeMille and was on hand when movie directors met to form a guild in 1936, has died. He was 100.
McWhorter, who worked steadily from the 1930s until his retirement in the early 1990s, died Jan. 18 in his home in the Los Angeles area, his family announced.
As an assistant director, McWhorter worked on such films as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Frenchman’s Creek (1944), Love Letters (1945), Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), Samson and Delilah (1949), Come Back, Little Sheba (1952) and The Rose Tattoo (1955).
He served as a unit production manager on Broken Lace (1954), The Bachelor Party (1957), Kings Go Forth (1958), The Taming of the Shrew (1967), Portnoy’s Complaint (1972), The Count of Monte Cristo (1975), Matilda (1978), Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), The Trouble With Spies (1987) and TV’s The Love Boat.
McWhoter was on the set of Vidor’s Solomon and Sheba (1959) in Madrid, Spain, when star Tyrone Power collapsed two weeks before the movie wrapped and later died of a heart attack. Yul Brynner was brought in, and the film was completed.
McWhorter traveled the world during his career and also worked often with directors William Dieterle and Daniel Mann and producer Hal Wallis.
After graduating high school, McWhorter, a native of Houston, moved to California and landed a job as a messenger boy at Columbia Pictures in 1933. Later, he broke down scripts and worked in the studio’s locations department.
In 1936, McWhorter attended a gathering of directors, assistant directors and unit managers at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Capra presided over the meeting, one of the first of what would lead to the formation of the Screen Directors Guild, McWhorter recalled in an interview on the Directors Guild of America’s website.
“They were calling the producers’ hand on recognizing directors as an entity themselves,” he said.
The Screen Directors Guild was formed later that year, and McWhorter, then a first AD, joined up a year later. The guild merged with the Radio and Television Directors Guild in 1960 to become the DGA.
In 1944, McWhorter started the Studio Process Body Co., which provided breakaway auto and truck bodies for rent to studios for use in close-up scenes, his family noted.
Survivors include his daughter Nancy, son-in-law Michael, daughter-in-law Francesca, eight grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.