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Obituaries

John Lucas, 83; Writer, Director for 1950s-'70s TV Shows

October 29, 2002|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

John Meredyth Lucas, who wrote for such classic television series as the original "Star Trek" and such films as the 1950 "Dark City," which marked Charlton Heston's Hollywood debut, has died. He was 83.

Lucas, who was also a producer and director, died Oct. 19 in Los Angeles of leukemia, said his daughter, Victoria Lucas.

Born into a show business family, Lucas incorporated his varied interests into scripts, specializing in medical shows, mysteries and science fiction.

He wrote and directed several episodes of the pioneering television realism show "Medic," which starred Richard Boone as Dr. Konrad Styner, and aired from 1954 to 1956. Filmed in hospitals with actual doctors and nurses treating patients, the series was based on case histories from the files of the Los Angeles County Medical Assn.

In the 1960s, Lucas went on to write and produce the popular fictional medical series "Ben Casey" and followed with the long-running "Medical Center."

For Lucas, writing, directing and producing were happily intertwined.

"I think the most important thing for a producer to be is a writer," he told The Times in 1965, when he was writing episodes and producing "Ben Casey," "because everything we do begins with writing. It's so much better if the producer knows how to work with a script. Then he's more than just a critic; he can actually help mold the raw material.

"A good director can make a bad script interesting," he added. "A bad director can pretty effectively destroy the greatest script ever written."

Lucas was born to all three roles, as the son of Wilfred Lucas, one of Hollywood's early actor-director-producers, and Bess Meredyth, screenwriter for such films as the 1925 version of "Ben-Hur" and the 1926 "Don Juan." Lucas' mother subsequently married Michael Curtiz, director of such classic films as "Casablanca."

Curtiz, who adopted Lucas, gave him his first job as his script clerk. Lucas quickly graduated to writing and also founded the Gryphon Players at the Laguna Playhouse.

Among the mystery television series Lucas worked on were "The Fugitive," "Mannix" and "Quincy."

Science fiction series for Lucas included not only the seminal "Star Trek," but also Rod Serling's "Night Gallery," the TV version of "Planet of the Apes" and "The Six Million Dollar Man." Lucas also teamed up with producer Irwin Allen to do the television movie "City Beneath the Sea" and for Disney wrote and directed one of the first behind-the-scenes documentaries, "The Making of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.' "

Lucas' first wife was the late actress Joan Winfield.

He is survived by his wife of 24 years, Patricia Kay Lucas, and three children, Elizabeth, Victoria and Michael Lucas.

Services will be private. The family has asked that memorial donations be made to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, 22212 Ventura Blvd., Suite 300, Woodland Hills, 91364.

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