|Born||Leo Z. Penn
August 27, 1921
Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||September 5, 1998
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Lung cancer|
|Resting place||Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California|
|Occupation||Television director, actor|
(m. 1947; div. 1952)
|Relatives||Dylan Penn (granddaughter)|
Penn was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Elizabeth (née Melincoff) and Maurice Daniel Penn (also from Lithuanian origins). Leo Penn may have had distant Sephardic ancestry, as his father's surname was originally "Piñon."
Penn served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II as a B-24 Liberator bombardier with the 755th Bomb Squadron, 458th Bomb Group, stationed in England as part of the Eighth Air Force.
A life member of The Actors Studio, Penn won the Theatre World Award in 1954 for his performance in the play The Girl on the Via Flaminia. He acted in numerous roles in the early years of television. In 1956, he was cast as Mr. Rico in the episode "Ringside Padre" of the religion anthology series, Crossroads. In 1957, he appeared in the episode "One If by Sea" of the military drama series, Navy Log. He was also cast in an episode of Beverly Garland's 1957-1958 groundbreaking crime drama, Decoy. In 1960, he played Cavage in "The Poker Fiend" on Richard Boone's CBS western series, Have Gun - Will Travel. In 1961, he was cast as Tiko in the episode "The World Is Her Oyster" of the ABC adventure series, The Islanders, set in the South Pacific, and appeared in an episode of the ABC crime drama The Asphalt Jungle. He also appeared in another ABC adventure series, Straightaway, which focuses on automobile racing. On March 3, 1961, he co-starred with Peter Falk and Joyce Van Patten in the episode "Cold Turkey" of the ABC legal drama series, The Law and Mr. Jones starring James Whitmore. About this time, he also appeared on Pat O'Brien's ABC sitcom, Harrigan and Son. In the 1961-1962 television season Penn acted in the CBS crime drama, Checkmate in the episode The Button-Down Break and starred as Jerry Green in Gertrude Berg's CBS's sitcom Mrs. G. Goes to College renamed at mid-season as The Gertrude Berg Show.
Penn landed work as a director for many television series, including I Spy, Lost in Space, Star Trek, Blue Light, Custer, the 1976 western Sara, St. Elsewhere, Kojak, Starsky and Hutch, Cagney & Lacey, Columbo, Hawaii Five-O, Trapper John, M.D., Magnum, P.I. and Father Murphy. In 1983, Penn was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for The Mississippi.
Penn supported the Hollywood trade unions and refused to accuse others to the House Un-American Activities Committee in their investigation of suspected Communist infiltration of the film industry. Penn was subsequently blacklisted, and Paramount refused to renew his contract. As a result, Penn was not able to work as a movie actor. He found acting work in television, but CBS ousted him after receiving an anonymous accusation that he had addressed a political meeting.[clarification needed] Barred from acting in film or TV, he became a director.
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His first marriage, to Olive Deering, was dissolved in 1952. He was married in 1957 to actress Eileen Ryan, with whom he had three sons: singer Michael Penn (b.1958), and actors Sean Penn (b.1960) and Chris Penn (1965-2006).
- Kelly, Richard T. (2004), Sean Penn: His Life and Times, New York: Canongate Books, pp. 9–10, ISBN 1-84195-623-6
- "Famous B-24/PB4Y Crew Members". B-24 Best Web. 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
- Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 279. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- New York Times obituary of Leo Penn
- Hilden, Julie at FindLaw.com In Defense of Sean Penn's Speaking Out dated Tuesday, January 18, 2005
- [ reminiscence by Leo Penn] quoted on p.26 of Kelly, Richard T. (2004), Sean Penn: His Life and Times, New York: Canongate Books, p. 26, ISBN 1-84195-623-6
- Elia Kazan—Genius or Informant?