James Sheldon, an illustrious television director whose work spans back to the early 1950s, has died at the age of 95. He passed away at his home in Manhattan after complications due to cancer, his son, Tony, told The New York Times.
To consider Sheldon’s varied career is to take a walk through the history of television. His first credited TV gig was on Mr. Peepers in the ’50s, and went on to work on episodes of The Twilight Zone, the Adam West-led Batman, M*A*S*H, The Bing Crosby Show, and many, many more.
Born Leonard James Schleifer in Nov. 12, 1920 in New York City, Sheldon studied theater at the University of North Carolina. He went on to work as a page and tour guide at NBC in the 1940s before working on We, the People, which he likened to 60 Minutes. In an interview with the Director’s Guild of America, Sheldon said the radio program’s director Ralph Levy “couldn’t wait to train me on cameras” so he could go on to do other projects. “So that was how it all began.”
Sheldon’s directing career, while it never included helming a feature film, features episodes of The Patty Duke Show, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The Love Boat. He later published an autobiography in 2011 called Before I Forget: Directing Television 1948-1988.
He remarked in a 2005 interview with the Archive of American Television, “I guess I want to be remembered as a guy who contributed to an industry that started and reached great peaks.”