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Behar, who also helmed TV programs featuring Ernie Kovacs when the famed comedian was first starting out, died June 26 at his home in Manhattan Beach, his wife, Carolyn, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Behar spent 22 years as a director on NBC’s Days of Our Lives — beginning with the show’s first broadcast in November 1965 — and from 1963-77 also called the shots for the Monty Hall-hosted Let’s Make a Deal, including the pilot.
The New York native also helmed the 1963 pilot for General Hospital before coming out of retirement to return to the ABC show 30 years later to begin a decade-long stay.
Behar won five Daytime Emmys, including four in the 2000s for his work on GH, before he retired — this time for good — at age 79 in 2005.
Born in Harlem on Sept. 30, 1926, Behar was raised in Long Beach, New York. He left Hofstra University in 1945 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army; stationed in Japan, he started a newspaper for the troops.
After his discharge, he took a class in television production in 1948, and that led to a job at WPTZ-TV in Philadelphia as a cameraman (working studio shows, Athletics and Phillies baseball games and University of Pennsylvania football games) and a promotion to director.
In the 1950s, Behar helmed episodes of the NBC daytime sci-fi show Atom Squad, the soap opera The Greatest Gift and local programs starring Kovacs, including a two-hour weekday morning program that predated the Today show. (Kovacs had begun at WPTZ as a staff announcer.)
From 1955-58, he directed for NBC’s Wide Wide World, a Sunday travelogue series conceived by Pat Weaver and hosted by Dave Garroway. When the Rocky Mountains were obscured by a blizzard during one episode, he sent someone to a gift shop to buy a picture postcard for the camera to zoom in on, his family noted.
He relocated to Los Angeles in 1959 to reteam with Kovacs on several network shows.
The key to directing Let’s Make a Deal was capturing the contestants’ reactions, he said in a 2003 conversation for the TV Academy Foundation website The Interviews. “Once a reaction was gone and you didn’t catch it, there was no way of editing it in or redoing it,” he noted. “But I was a wiz at getting it the first time.”
In addition to his wife of 53 years, survivors include sons Jeffrey, Steven and Greg and their partners Lori, Tim and Jennifer; grandchildren Alex, Mallory, Niko and Lydia; and great-granddaughter Brooklyn.
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