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John R. Smight (March 9, 1925 – September 1, 2003)[1] was an American theatre and film director.[2]

Jack Smight
Born(1925-03-09)March 9, 1925[1]
DiedSeptember 1, 2003(2003-09-01) (aged 78)[1]
OccupationTheatre director, film director, film producer

His film credits include The Traveling Executioner,[3] No Way to Treat a Lady, Rabbit, Run, Loving Couples, Midway,[2] Harper, Airport 1975,[4] Damnation Alley and Columbo: Dead Weight.[2]


Smight was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and went to Cretin High School with future actor Peter Graves.

He joined the Army Air Forces, flying missions in the Pacific during World War II, before earning his degree at the University of Minnesota. He then sought work as an actor.[5]

He worked as a radio actor and had a bit part in a stage production of Anna Lucasta.

He became stage manager for TV's The Good Egg of the Week and then assistant director on The Colgate Comedy Hour and The Dennis Day Show. He said a big break was working on Visit to a Small Planet with Cyril Ritchard.[6] He became a TV director in 1957.

TV directorEdit

In 1959 he won an Emmy for his direction of the hour-long play Eddie, which starred Mickey Rooney.

He directed the 1960 Broadway play The 49th Cousin and composed the music for the film adaptation of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

He directed episodes for The Twilight Zone and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Feature FilmsEdit

Smight's first feature film was I'd Rather Be Rich (1964), a remake of It Started with Eve. Smight said "it was not a particularly good script but it opened up a whole new life for me."[6]

It was made for Universal, for whom Smith then made the TV film In the Darkness Waiting. He then signed a contract with Warners to make six films at one a year. He produced and directed The Third Day (1965) and then directed Harper (1965), starring Paul Newman, a big hit.[7] He was meant to follow it with Kaleidescope with Warren Beatty but ended up not directing.[6]

In 1966 he signed a three picture deal with the Mirisch Brothers and bought the rights to the novel The Illustrated Man.[8]

"He was also a very intelligent, literate man who knew how to communicate with the writers," Graves said.[9]

Smight's last film was a US-Swiss co-production, The Favorite (1989, also known as La Nuit du serail).

Smight died from cancer in Los Angeles in 2003.[1] Smight's wife of more than 50 years, actress Joyce Cunning, died the year before. He is survived by two sons, Tim and Alec; a sister; and four grandchildren.



  1. ^ a b c d Bergan, Ronald (September 19, 2003). "Jack Smight. Down-to-earth director whose stars included Bacall, Steiger and Newman". The Guardian.
  2. ^ a b c "Jack Smight". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Variety Staff (December 31, 1969). "Review: 'The Traveling Executioner'". Variety.
  4. ^ Canby, Vincent (October 19, 1974). "Airport 1975 (1974) Screen:'Airport 1975' Is a Silly Sequel With a 747". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Obituary: Jack Smight ; Director specialising in the macabre: [FOREIGN Edition] Vallance, Tom. The Independent 16 Sep 2003: 16.
  6. ^ a b c Hollywood Kind to TV Directors Los Angeles Times 17 May 1966: c9.
  7. ^ Smight makes best of both: Go anywhere By Kimmis Hendrick. The Christian Science Monitor 3 Aug 1965: 6.
  8. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Jack Smight Signs Contract Los Angeles Times 12 Dec 1966: D25.
  9. ^ Obituaries; Jack Smight, 78; Film, Television Director: [HOME EDITION] Los Angeles Times 12 Sep 2003: B.14.

External linksEdit