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Dick Darley, the pioneering TV director and producer who took the 1950 sci-fi series Space Patrol from a 15-minute local show in Los Angeles to a Saturday night sensation on ABC, has died. He was 92.
Darley, who also helmed the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club in 1955, died April 21 in Sedona, Ariz., his daughter, Carol, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Darley guided the live sci-fi series Space Patrol from its start as a daily kids show broadcast from L.A. station KECA-TV (now KABC) in 1950 to its expansion as a half-hour nationally televised show on ABC. It made history as the first regular live West Coast morning network program beamed to the East Coast.
Darley had served as a Navy fighter pilot during World War II, flying off aircraft carriers. His daughter noted that he “thrived on the adrenalin of live television, often comparing it to the rush of flying off rolling carrier decks.
“After each live show, instead of heading to the bar with his co-workers, he would go to Pickwick Bookstore [on Hollywood Boulevard] to unwind.”
“It was a yeasty period for me,” Darley said in Jean-Noel Bassior’s 2005 book Space Patrol: Missions of Daring in the Name of Early Television. “We started out with spit and made up the sets, models and special effects as we went along. It was pretty much free rein — and that was wonderful for a creative person. I recognized it as a terrific experimental ground.”
In one of the early reviews of Space Patrol, a writer misspelled his first name as “Dik,” and he kept that for some years.
When Space Patrol ended in 1955, Darley was hired by Walt Disney Studios to direct The Mickey Mouse Club. The show was an overwhelming success when it debuted in October 1955, but Darley was replaced after one season.
Darley later created the early 1960s sci-fi animated series Space Angel, which superimposed live-action moving lips over the mouths of animated characters.
Born in L.A., Darley graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1941. After the war, he attended USC, majoring in radio production and writing, then was hired by Don Lee-Mutual Broadcasting’s experimental TV station. He worked for KFMB in San Diego before joining KECA.
Darley went on to direct and/or produce for The Rosemary Clooney Show, The Spike Jones Show, The Millionaire, Lassie, Sid and Marty Krofft’s Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and The Lost Saucer.
He also helmed episodes of the shows American Sportsman and Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf and commercials for such companies as Chevrolet, Hallmark and Toys “R” Us.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife Marilyn, son Chris — a director for the game show Hollywood Squares — brother Fred and grandchildren Christen, Alex and Mica.
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