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Jack Shea, a TV comedy director for more than four decades who directed 10 Bob Hope overseas Christmas specials and multiple episodes of such sitcoms as The Jeffersons, Silver Spoons and Sanford and Son, has died. He was 84.
Shea died Sunday of complications from Alzheimer’s in Tarzana, his wife of 59 years, television screenwriter Patt Shea, said Monday.
Jack Shea served three terms as DGA president from 1997-2002 and was a member of the guild for more than a half-century. He was the recipient of the prestigious Robert Aldridge Award in 1992, which honors extraordinary service to the DGA and its membership.
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Shea did his first Christmas special with Hope in December 1962 and worked with the famed comic to entertain U.S. troops in such locations as Vietnam, Korea, Guantanamo Bay, Japan, Turkey, Greece, Spain and Italy, receiving his first of two career Emmy Award nominations along the way.
Shea directed 110 episodes of The Jeffersons (he also wrote three episodes and produced 24), 91 episodes of Silver Spoons, 22 of The Ropers, 15 of Sanford and Son and 14 of Designing Women, one of which earned him his second Emmy nom in 1987.
His first directing gig came at age 27 when he was asked to fill in for an ailing director on the primetime game show Truth or Consequences.
Born Aug. 1, 1928, in New York, John Francis Shea attended Fordham University, where he graduated with a BA in history in 1950. That year, he began his TV career working as a stage manager at NBC in Burbank on Philco Playhouse, among other programs.
He made the leap to associate director on The Bob Hope Show and went on to helm episodes of The Jerry Lewis Show, Death Valley Days and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. His other credits include Growing Pains, The Waltons, Valerie, The Royal Family, The Golden Girls, Punky Brewster and Full House. His last credit came on the Sherman Hemsley sitcom Goode Behavior in 1997.
In 1954, Shea — who served two years in the Air Force during the Korean War as a television and motion picture director stationed in Los Angeles to produce educational films — helped his co-workers organize the Radio & Television Directors Guild. Within a year, they had achieved a union shop where anyone on the directorial staff could join the guild for a $50 initiation fee.
Shea was one of the few leaders of the relatively small, New York-based RTDG working in Los Angeles, and he became president of RTDG’s Hollywood local in 1958, holding that post until 1960, when the RTDG and the Screen Directors Guild merged to form the DGA. He served for more than 35 years on the guild’s national board.
“Jack Shea occupied a truly unique position in the history of the modern DGA,” DGA president Taylor Hackford said in a statement. “As the West Coast president of the Radio & Television Directors Guild in 1960, he was at the table sitting across from Frank Capra when the two guilds representing television and theatrical directors merged to form the modern Directors Guild of America.
“Beloved by his fellow directors, the DGA membership and the DGA staff, he always had a ready smile and keen interest in everyone he encountered. Jack enjoyed life and shared it with everyone around him; as a leader, his gentle manner and the kindest of hearts will be the things we miss the most.”
Shea also served the DGA as a vice president, secretary and as a member of numerous other DGA committees. As president, he tackled issues including runaway production, diversity hiring and building a unified guild led by working members.
Patt Shea is a three-time Humanitas Award winner whose credits include All in the Family, Archie Bunker’s Place and Cagney & Lacey. She and her husband resided in Studio City for more than 30 years.
In addition to his wife, Shea is survived by children Shawn, Bill, Michael and John Francis III and grandchildren Amanda, Michael, Dylan, Hudson Patrick, Katie and Jackson.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Jack Shea’s name can be made to Regis High School in New York. A Catholic Mass for family, friends and professional acquaintances will be held at 10 a.m. May 9 at St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church in Sherman Oaks.
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