Robert Dozier, Film and TV Screenwriter, Dies at 81

Robert Dozier

Son of producer William Dozier and husband of actress Diana Muldaur wrote for the films "The Cardinal," "The Big Bounce" and "The Young Stranger," which was based on his life.

Robert Dozier, who penned such feature films as The Cardinal and The Big Bounce and wrote for the hit TV series The Streets of San Francisco and Dr. Kildare, died Jan. 6 at his home on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts after a long illness. He was 81.

Dozier was the son of Hollywood film and TV executive William Dozier, who produced and served as the narrator for the campy 1960s series Batman. His wife is actress and former TV Academy president Diana Muldaur, and his stepmother is Gone With the Wind star Ann Rutherford.

“Bob was one of the fresh, new voices in the very early days of television, along with Paddy Chayefsky, Reggie Rose and other writers, when TV was what YouTube is today, when it was an absolutely free and open universe — and Bob was one of the pioneers to help make it what it did become,” said screenwriter and former WGA West president Frank Pierson.

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Dozier, who grew up in Hollywood and went to Beverly Hills High School, had his first major success with his 1955 script for Deal a Blow, the semi-autobiographical story of a conflicted relationship between an overbearing father and his son that aired live as part of CBS’ Climax! anthology series.

He then adapted his script for the film The Young Stranger (1957), directed by John Frankenheimer (his first feature). In the movie, James MacArthur plays a clean-cut kid ignored by his movie-producer father (James Daly).

Dozier also wrote for other anthology shows such as Studio One in Hollywood, Four-Star Playhouse and G.E. Theater, often championing the underdog in his work. His 1957 Kaiser Aluminum Hour episode "A Real Fine Cutting Edge," the story of soldiers who deal with the constant bullying of a sergeant, was based on Dozier's experiences in the Army.

After penning episodes of such TV series as Thriller, Have Gun, Will Travel and Dr. Kildare, Dozier saw two films with his writing released in 1963: I Could Go on Singing, starring Judy Garland, and The Cardinal, directed by Otto Preminger, involving a Boston-born priest struggling against the hatred and prejudice he sees in society.

Dozier continued working in TV throughout the decade, with episodes of Batman; Dan August, starring Burt Reynolds; and the original Hawaii Five-O.

He adapted Elmore Leonard's novel for The Big Bounce (1969), starring Ryan O'Neal, and his adapted screenplay for 1972’s When the Legends Die focused on an American Indian (played by Fredric Forrest) on the rodeo circuit.

Dozier also wrote for and produced TV’s Harry O, starring David Janssen, and produced such other series as The Contender, Inspector Perez, Sweepstakes and The Devlin Connection, starring Rock Hudson. He wrote several telefilms, including Incident in San Francisco (1971), Dead Men Tell No Tales (1971) and Pursuit (1972).

A Writers Guild West member since 1962, Dozier retired from show business in 1989.

In addition to Muldaur and Rutherford, survivors include sons Harold, Aaron and Brendan from his first marriage; his sister Deborah Dozier Potter, daughter of stepmother Joan Fontaine; and Rutherford’s daughter Gloria.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Dozier’s name to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute for Prostate Cancer Research, care of Dr. Taplin, or the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard. Details of a memorial service were pending.

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