Hal Kanter

Active - 1951 - 2012  |   Born - Dec 18, 1918   |   Died - Nov 7, 2011   |   Genres - Comedy, Romance, Musical

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Growing up Jewish in the Deep South required writer/director Hal Kanter to develop a strong sense of humor as a defensive mechanism. Kanter's professional career began with gag contributions for radio and nightclub comedians. Flourishing in TV's Golden Age, Kanter was a member of the Emmy-winning writing team of The George Gobel Show; on the film front, he wrote scripts and special material for the likes of Bob Hope and Martin and Lewis. Kanter made his film directorial debut with Elvis Presle's Loving You (1957), which, though panned on its first release, made a lot of money and holds up admirably when seen today. Unfortunately Kanters next directing job, the 1957 George Gobel movie vehicle I Married a Woman was an exercise in mediocrity. Once Upon a Horse (1957) was an attempt by Kanter to make movie stars of Rowan and Martin the film was a frequently witty western parody (written as well as directed by Kanter), but a bit too "inside" for general audiences of the era. Returning to television, Kanter was the creative force behind the popular 1968 sitcom Julia a sociologically important effort in that it was the first weekly TV program to star a young black woman (Diahann Carroll) in a non-subservient role. In 1976, Kanter was appointed head writer for Bob Hope, who shed himself of his long-time writing staff in hopes of coming up with "something new" (Kanter tried hard, but in the end Bob decided to fall back on the old tricks that had served him so well for forty years). Also during the '70s, Kanter became executive producer of All in the Family, which proved an ideal outlet for the writer's characteristic blend of sarcastic one-liners and sitcom sentimentality. In 1989, Hal Kanter was honored by the Writers' Guild with the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award; subsequently, he became a prolific on-camera interviewee in retrospective documentaries devoted to film and TV comedy.

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