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Director John Frankenheimer dies at age 72

Frankenheimer was nominated for 14 Emmy Awards during his almost 50-year career.
Frankenheimer was nominated for 14 Emmy Awards during his almost 50-year career.  

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- John Frankenheimer, a legendary director of movies and television, died Saturday after suffering a massive stroke due to complications following spinal surgery, his business manager said.

He was 72 and died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his manager, Patti Person, said.

The four-time Emmy Award winner made 29 films, including many now considered classics -- "Birdman of Alcatraz" and "The Manchurian Candidate" among them.

The New York native studied theater at Williams College and first delved into moviemaking in the Air Force, where he directed documentaries while stationed in Burbank, California.

In 1953, he persuaded CBS to hire him as an assistant director. At the network, Frankenheimer started out directing weather and news shows but quickly moved on to more highly produced programs, including "Person to Person," "See It Now," "Danger" and "You Are There."

In an interview with CNN in 2000, Frankenheimer said his first film -- 1957's "The Young Stranger" -- persuaded him that he didn't want to work in that medium. But he had no choice as live television took a back seat to pre-recorded shows.

"I became kind of like the village blacksmith after the invention of the automobile," Frankenheimer said. "There just was nowhere to go. Obviously, the next thing for me was directing movies."

In 1961, he released "The Young Savages," which starred Burt Lancaster and launched his career as a director. In the film, Frankenheimer recruited teen gang members to act in a story about East Harlem life. "Birdman of Alcatraz" followed, establishing him as a top filmmaker.

Frankenheimer built his reputation with such films as 1962's "The Manchurian Candidate, about a Cold War assassination plot; "Seven Days in May," in 1964, which featured Lancaster as a general plotting to overthrow the U.S. government; "Black Sunday," a 1977 film about a terrorist attack on the Super Bowl; and his last theatrical release, 2000's "Reindeer Games," about a casino heist.

In recent years, Frankenheimer directed several made-for-television historical dramas. His 1997 film "George Wallace," which starred Gary Sinise as the former Alabama governor, won three Emmy awards, including one for Frankenheimer's direction. His latest film, "Path to War," was shown on HBO in May.

This fall, he was to have been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, one of the few directors to be so honored.

Frankenheimer is survived by his wife of 41 years, Evans; two daughters, Elise Riggs and Kristi Frankenheimer; a grandson, Dylan Frankenheimer; a sister, Jean Hieber; and a brother, Richard Frankenheimer.




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