TV and Screenwriter Robert Dozier Dies at 81
LOS ANGELES -- Veteran television and screenwriter Robert Dozier, who penned such feature films as The Cardinal and The Big Bounce and wrote for such hit TV series as The Streets of San Francisco and Dr. Kildare, died on January 6 at his home on Martha’s Vineyard, MA, after a long illness. He was 81.
“Bob was one of the fresh, new voices in the very early days of television, along with Paddy Chayefsky, Reggie Rose, and other writers, when TV was what YouTube is today, when it was an absolutely free and open universe – and Bob was one of the pioneers to help make it what it did become. To those who knew him well, this is a deep, personal loss,” said screenwriter and former WGAW President Frank Pierson.
Dozier began work as a screenwriter during the “Golden Age” of television. His first major success came with his 1955 script for Deal a Blow, the semi-autobiographical story of a conflicted relationship between an overbearing father and his son which aired live on CBS as part of the Climax! anthology TV series. Dozier later adapted his script for the 1957 film, The Young Stranger, directed by John Frankenheimer.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, Dozier also wrote for anthology shows such as Studio One in Hollywood, Four-Star Playhouse (“The Good Sister,” Yesterday’s Pawnshop”), and G.E. Theater (“The Play-Off,” “Shadow of a Hero”). Often championing the underdog in his work, Dozier penned the 1957 Kaiser Aluminum Hour episode, “A Real Fine Cutting Edge,” the story of soldiers who must deal with the constant bullying of a sergeant, based on Dozier's experiences in the Army.
After penning episodes of TV series such as Thriller, Have Gun Will Travel, and Dr. Kildare, Dozier saw two films released in 1963: I Could Go on Singing (screenplay by Mayo Simon, story by Robert Dozier), starring Judy Garland, and The Cardinal (screenplay by Robert Dozier, based on the novel James Morton Robinson), directed by Otto Preminger, involving a Boston-born priest struggling against the hatred and prejudice he sees in society.
Dozier continued working in TV throughout the decade, writing episodes of the original ’60s Batman series (his father, William Dozier, served as producer of the show), Dan August, starring Burt Reynolds, and the original Hawaii Five-O.
On the silver screen, he adapted Elmore Leonard's novel for the 1969 film, The Big Bounce, starring Ryan O'Neal, while his adapted screenplay for 1972's When the Legends Die (based on the novel by Hal Borland) focused on an American Indian on the rodeo circuit.
In addition to serving as writer and producer on TV’s Harry O, he also produced television series including The Contender, Inspector Perez, Sweepstakes, and The Devlin Connection, starring Rock Hudson. He also wrote several telemovies, including Incident in San Francisco, Dead Men Tell No Tales, Pursuit, and The Lady Killers (teleplay by Robert Dozier and Richard Lan-Dau, story by Robert L. Goodwin and Landau.)
Robert James Dozier grew up in Hollywood, where his father worked as a literary agent turned TV producer, so when Dozier was young, he listened in as writers including F. Scott Fitzgerald bantered back and forth in the family's living room.
After graduating from Beverly Hills High School, Dozier spent some time at Brown U.; during service with the U.S. Army in Germany, he made documentaries for the signal corps.
A Writers Guild, West member since 1962, he retired from showbiz in 1989. During his career, he was active in the WGAW over the decades to help protect writers and raise their standing in the entertainment industry.
Dozier is survived by his wife, actress Diana Muldaur; three sons, Harold, Aaron and Brendan, from his first marriage; his sister Deborah Dozier Potter, daughter of stepmother Joan Fontaine; his stepmother of more than 50 years, actress Ann Rutherford, and her daughter Gloria May.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Robert Dozier’s name to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute for Prostate Cancer Research, care of Dr. Taplin, or Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.
Memorial service details are pending at press time.