Legendary Comic Writer Hal Kanter, Creator of Landmark Series 'Julia,' Dies at 92

Hal Kanter - P 2011
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The 1960s show starring Diahann Carroll made history for being the first sitcom to feature an African-American actress lead playing a character who was a professional woman rather than a domestic worker.

Hal Kanter, an Emmy Award-winning comedy writer who worked on the Oscars for more than three decades and created Julia, the landmark 1960s TV series starring Diahann Carroll, has died. He was 92.

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Kanter, who also wrote and directed one Elvis Presley film and penned another, died Sunday of complications from pneumonia at Encino Hospital, his daughter, Donna Kanter, told the Los Angeles Times.

Beginning in 1952, a year before the broadcast moved from radio to television, Kanter wrote for the Oscar show for at least 33 years, the Times said. In 1991 and 1992, he was among the show writers who shared Emmys for outstanding writing in a variety or music program.

Kanter made TV history in 1968 when he created and produced Julia, starring Carroll as a widowed nurse and the mother of a young son. With the NBC series, Carroll became the first African-American actress to star in her own TV sitcom playing a character who was a professional woman rather than a domestic worker.

The series was not carried on some TV stations in the South its first couple of weeks. “Eventually, the show became such a hit, they were forced to carry it," Kanter recalled in a 1997 interview with the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television.

The show ran for three seasons.

Kanter also created the TV series Valentine's Day starring Tony Franciosa in the mid-1960s and The Jimmy Stewart Show in 1972. He was a writer and producer on Chico and the Man in 1976 and wrote and executive produced for All in the Family in 1975.

Kanter also shared an Emmy in 1955 for best written comedy material for his work on The George Gobel Show.

Among his film screenwriting credits are Bob Hope & Bing Crosby’s Road to Bali (1952); Hope’s Bachelor in Paradise (1961); Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis'' Money From Home (1953) and Artists and Models (1955); Pocket Full of Miracles (1961), starring Glenn Ford and Bette Davis; and Move Over, Darling (1963), starring Doris Day and James Garner.

Kanter wrote the screenplay and directed Presley in Loving You (1957), then penned Presley’s Blue Hawaii (1961). He also co-wrote and directed Once Upon a Horse …, starring Dan Rowan and Dick Martin.

A native of Savannah, Ga., Kanter received the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television from the WGA in 1989.

In addition to his daughter Donna, Kanter is survived by his wife of 70 years, writer Doris Kanter; his other daughters, Lisa and Abigail; his sister, Saralea; and a granddaughter.