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John Erman, the Emmy-winning director who worked on Roots, That Girl, Peyton Place, Star Trek, The Fugitive and M*A*S*H during his 40-plus years in television, died June 25 in New York after a brief illness, a publicist announced. He was 85.
A 10-time Emmy nominee, Erman won his statuette for helming the 1983 ABC telefilm Who Will Love My Children? starring Ann-Margret as a woman diagnosed with cancer in 1952 determined to find homes for her 10 kids.
Erman also called the shots for the actress in the miniseries The Two Mrs. Grenvilles in 1987, Queen in 1993 and Scarlett in 1994 and in the telefilms A Streetcar Named Desire in 1984 and Our Sons in 1991.
The two-time DGA Award winner helmed the second installment of 1977’s Roots and three installments of 1979’s Roots: The Next Generations as well as 1985’s An Early Frost, one of the first network telefilms to tackle AIDS.
He also directed two features: Making It (1971), written by Peter Bart, and Stella (1990), starring Bette Midler.
The son of a regional manager for the American Woolen Co., Erman was born in Chicago on Aug. 3, 1935. He moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was 6, then attended Beverly Hills High School and UCLA.
At a party attended by his parents, Miracle on 34th Street screenwriter Valentine Davies talked about a funny kid he had seen in a play at UCLA, and that turned out to be Erman. He ended up portraying the young brother of Benny Goodman — a role written for him by Davies — in The Benny Goodman Story (1956), starring Steve Allen.
Erman also appeared as a student in Blackboard Jungle (1955) and in Anything Goes (1956), and after graduation he studied acting with Sanford Meisner in New York. He became a casting director at Republic Studios before breaking into directing.
His first helming assignment came on a 1961 episode of CBS’ Father of the Bride, and he went on to work on The Fugitive, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, The Flying Nun, Room 222, That Girl, Peyton Place, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Star Trek — the 1968 episode “The Empath” — Marcus Welby, M.D., The Bob Newhart Show, M*A*S*H and Family, among other series.
His telefilm and miniseries credits included Green Eyes; Eleanor, First Lady of the World; The Atlanta Child Murders; The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank; Breathing Lessons; The Boys Next Door; The Sunshine Boys; and Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke.
He worked with Marlon Brando, Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, Peter Falk, Joanne Woodward, Gena Rowlands, Bernadette Peters, Nathan Lane, Angela Lansbury, Lee Remick, Claudette Colbert, Sylvia Sidney, Hugh Grant, Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones, Tony Curtis, Richard Chamberlain and Lauren Bacall during his career.
Erman taught theater and film appreciation at Fordham University and NYU after he retired from television, and at the time of his death, he was serving on the Tony Awards nominating committee.
Survivors include his husband and partner of 42 years, Richard Blair.
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