Jerry Thorpe, Emmy-Winning Director and Producer of 'Kung Fu,' Dies at 92

ABC/Photofest
'Kung Fu,' starring David Carradine

A onetime head of production at Desilu Productions, he also worked on 'December Bride,' 'The Untouchables, 'Harry O' and 'Falcon Crest.'

Jerry Thorpe, an executive at Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's Desilu Productions and a co-creator, director and producer on the David Carradine adventure series Kung Fu, died Sept. 25 in Santa Barbara, his family announced. He was 92.

During his four-decade career, the Los Angeles native also worked on David Janssen's Harry OOur House, starring Wilford Brimley; and the longtime Jane Wyman CBS primetime soap Falcon Crest.

His father, Richard Thorpe, was a prolific director at MGM whose voluminous credits included Tarzan Escapes (1936), The Crowd Roars (1938), The Thin Man Goes Home (1944), Ivanhoe (1952) and Jailhouse Rock (1957).

Jerry Thorpe directed episodes of the Desilu comedy December Bride starting in 1954 and served as an associate producer on the 1956 feature Forever, Darling, starring Ball and Arnaz. In 1957, he went to work on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, helming the pilot episode, and directed and produced for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse.

Thorpe eventually rose to head of production at Desilu and produced the second season of the company's acclaimed cop drama The Untouchables.

Thorpe is credited (with Ed Spielman and Herman Miller) as a co-creator on Kung Fu. He worked on all three seasons of the 1972-75 ABC drama, executive producing or producing 63 episodes and directing another 10. He was nominated for Emmys three times and won for helming a 1972 installment.

Thorpe also produced and directed the films The Venetian Affair (1966), starring Robert Vaughn, and Day of the Evil Gun (1968), starring Glenn Ford. 

Survivors include his wife of 32 years, Diane; children Trevor, Tiana, Trish and Tracy; and grandchildren Angelo and Tyler Thorpe. 

A graveside service is set for 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 10 at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California. Thorpe resided in nearby Palm Springs for 28 years.