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July 14, 2008

Claudio Guzman Passes

Director of I Dream Jeannie & More

Claudio Guzman, a director and producer who created one of America’s first bicultural Spanish-English educational television programs for children, Villa Allegre, died July 12 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Guzman, who was 80, succumbed to pneumonia following a long illness.

A native of Rancagua, Chile, Guzman moved to the U.S. in 1951 with the intention of studying architecture on the East Coast, but instead settled in Los Angeles.

With limited English skills at the time, he found work as a hospital orderly, and often drew pictures to communicate with patients. One patient introduced him to the Cuban-born actor and television producer Desi Arnaz, with whom he could speak Spanish.

Arnaz helped Guzman find work at his company, Desilu Productions. Guzman won an Emmy Award in 1959 for art direction for the television film Song of Bernadette, which starred Arnaz and was produced by the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse.

Eventually Guzman became a director. While working on the 1959 Desilu Playhouse drama A Diamond for Carla, me met its star, the Italian-born actress and operatic singer Anna Maria Alberghetti, whom he married in 1964. They had two daughters and divorced in 1972.

Guzman directed dozens of television series, including more than 30 episodes of I Dream of Jeannie and several episodes of The Patty Duke Show and Harper Valley P.T.A.

In 1973 he helped to create Villa Alegre, a half-hour series in the tradition of Sesame Street. The program aired until about 1980 on more than 230 stations nationally.

After marrying his second wife, Micki in 1981, Guzman spent six years in Chile, where he worked for a television station and designed homes for friends. More recently, he lived in the Carthay Circle area of Los Angeles.

In addition to his wife, Guzman is survived by two daughters, three stepchildren and two grandsons.

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