Jerry Hopper, who worked his way up from an office assistant at Paramount Studios to direct more than 50 motion pictures and some of the most popular television programs of the 1950s and '60s, died Saturday in a San Clemente Hospital. Hopper, who suffered from heart problems, was 81.
Born in Oklahoma, Hopper was bitten by the show business bug shortly after moving West in the early 1930s, and by 1935 was working on the Paramount lot as a film editor. He took a break from film making during World War II, joining the Army as a combat photographer and earned a Purple Heart when he was wounded during the landing at Leyte in the South Pacific.
After the war, Hopper returned to Hollywood and directed films for Paramount and Universal Studios that featured some of the leading stars of the day, including "Never Say Goodbye" with Rock Hudson and "Toy Tiger" with Jeff Chandler. He won an Academy Award nomination for directing the "Private War of Maj. Benson" with Charlton Heston.
But Hopper didn't limit himself to the big screen. After directing an episode of the 1950s television hit "Bachelor Father," Hopper discovered he liked the medium and went on to direct 600 more programs. Among his directing credits were "Leave It to Beaver," "Wagon Train," The Fugitive," "Perry Mason" and "Gilligan's Island."
Hopper is survived by his wife, former actress Dorothy Ellis; 4 sons, 2 daughters, 15 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.