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Obituaries

Jack Smight, 78; Film, Television Director

September 12, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

Jack Smight, a director whose film credits include "Harper" with Paul Newman and "The Illustrated Man" with Rod Steiger, has died. Smight, who also directed extensively in television, died at home of cancer Sept. 1. He was 78.

In the 1950s, '60s and '70s, Smight directed episodes of "The Twilight Zone," "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," "Route 66," "Columbo," "Banacek" and other TV series.

Among his other feature films were "The Secret Life of Harry Fig," "No Way to Treat a Lady" and "Number One With a Bullet."

Actor Peter Graves, an old friend who starred in "Number One With a Bullet," said Smight had started out as an actor, so he understood actors. "He was also a very intelligent, literate man who knew how to communicate with the writers," Graves aid.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 18, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 63 words Type of Material: Correction
Smight obituary -- The obituary of director Jack Smight in Friday's California section omitted a word that changed the meaning of one sentence. The sentence read: "Graves eventually built an acting career, but soon turned to work as a stage manager and then as a director." It should have said that Smight, not his friend Peter Graves, was a stage manager and director.

Smight and Graves met in high school and, after again meeting at the University of Minnesota as drama majors, moved to Hollywood to seek careers in acting. They both stayed, despite the advice of Graves' brother, actor James Arness, that they should get on the next train back to Minneapolis.

"We got a room together for six bucks a week and kitchen privileges and started scouring the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety for auditions," Graves said. Smight got a job as a car hop and Graves as a taxi driver. Graves eventually built an acting career, but soon turned to work as a stage manager and then as a director.

"I love movies with a surprise around every corner," Smight told the Los Angeles Times in 1968 while filming "The Illustrated Man." He added, "With all the technicians and equipment at your disposal, it's such a temptation to indulge yourself. You've got to be careful not to be like a woman putting on too much jewelry."

The son of Irish Catholic immigrants, Smight was born March 9, 1925, in Minneapolis. He graduated from Cretin High School, and then joined the Army Air Forces, flying missions in the Pacific during World War II, before earning his degree at the University of Minnesota.

Smight's wife of more than 50 years, actress Joyce Cunning, died last year. He is survived by two sons, Tim and Alec; a sister; and four grandchildren.

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