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Andrew McCullough, a prolific director in TV’s Golden Age who worked with Orson Welles and James Dean on the small screen and called the shots for The Donna Reed Show and Family Ties, died Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, his family announced. He was 94.
McCullough also helmed episodes of Leave It to Beaver, 77 Sunset Strip, The Fugitive, Maverick, Lassie and Hawaiian Eye and later served as an AD on Happy Days.
Welles, who had already conquered film (Citizen Kane), theater (Caesar) and radio (Mercury Theater on the Air, War of the Worlds), in 1953 made his television debut in a live adaptation of King Lear. The Shakespeare classic was staged by Peter Brook, with McCullough directing the broadcast for CBS’ acclaimed Omnibus educational series.
In rehearsals, McCullough had to contend with the actor’s insistence on overseeing everything, Simon Callow wrote in Orson Welles: One Man Band. “Welles, seamlessly, and with effortless authority, had taken over command of the camera plot, prescribing lenses, shots, moves,” he wrote. “There was no confrontation, no loss of face, no comment; Welles simply did what Welles knew how to do better than anyone.”
On the night of its airing, Oct. 18, 1953, the broadcast ran commercial-free, thanks to persuasive negotiations by Brook and Welles. Brook later recalled that as he sat at the control panels, “I saw him [McCullough] intoxicated with the possibilities of the new medium, cutting wildly from one camera to another.”
A few weeks earlier, McCullough had directed Dean, then 22, in another Omnibus installment, “Glory in the Flower.” Written by William Inge, it was set in a small-town roadhouse inhabited by a teacher (Jessica Tandy), a bartender (Tandy’s husband, Hume Cronyn) and a bunch of rebellious juveniles, including Dean. (Not surprisingly, his character ends up in a fistfight.)
“He had a terrible attitude — very snotty and very arrogant,” McCullough said of the young actor in Robert Tanitch’s The Unknown James Dean. “As he started to read for me, he put his feet up on the table, pulled a knife from his boot and stuck it into the table.”
Still, McCullough directed Dean again the following year, this time on an episode of CBS’ Danger, in which he played another delinquent. “One of the most generous performances I’ve ever seen. Not an ounce of ego in it,” McCullough recalled.
In all, McCullough directed 44 episodes of Omnibus, also working with the likes of Joanne Woodward, Helen Hayes, Agnes de Mille, Brandon deWilde, Bert Lahr and Yul Brynner. He also guided Jonathan Winters in one of his earliest TV appearances and Leonard Bernstein in a lecture on Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
A native of North Hempstead, New York, who graduated from Harvard and served in World War II, McCullough directed the 1958 pilot episode of the ABC family sitcom The Donna Reed Show as well as another 32 episodes. He also worked in 1959 on the NBC adaptation of The Thin Man, starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk.
For NBC’s Family Ties, McCullough helmed 14 episodes and served as stage manager for 71.
Survivors include his daughter Leslie, grandchildren Erin and Liam and sister Jean. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Paralyzed Veterans of America, The Southern Poverty Law Center or the ASPCA.