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June 04, 2012

Robert Finkel, Prolific Director and Primetime Emmy-Winning Producer

Finkel earned his first television credit in 1950 and worked steadily for four decades, winning two Primetime Emmys for The Andy Williams Show.

Robert Finkel, a Primetime Emmy-winning director and producer, died April 30, 2012, in Beverly Hills. He was 94.

According to news reports, the cause was age-related complications.

During a career that spanned four decades, Finkel produced television projects for such stars as Dinah Shore, Bob Cummings, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Andy Williams and John Denver, as well as such event programming as the Primetime Emmy Awards, the Academy Awards, Circus of the Stars and the Miss Universe Pageant.

As a director, his credits included Gruen Guild Theater, The Colgate Comedy Hour, The People’s Choice, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Bob Newhart Show, McMillian and Wife, Barney Miller and more.

His final credit was as a producer of the made-for-television movie Have You Seen My Son.

Born March 25, 1918 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Finkel graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with a B.A. in drama. Prior to America’s involvement in World War II he found work in the movie business writing westerns.

During the war he enlisted in the Army Signal Corps and received several medals while serving in Burma.

After the war he returned to California, where he broke into television.

In addition to his work in the industry, Finkel taught at UCLA and USC and conducted a seminar for the American Film Institute.

He earned three Primetime Emmy nominations for The Andy Williams Show. He won twice — in 1966 and 1967. He also won a Peabody Award for a special with Julie Andrews, and in 1994 he received an Honorary Lifetime Membership Award from the Producers Guild of America.

Survivors include a daughter.

On September 10, 1997, Robert FInkel had the distinction of being interviewed by the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television. During the four-hour interview, conducted in Beverly Hills by Morrie Gelman, Finkel talked about the countless musical variety and awards shows he directed and produced.

He described directing the first televised telethon, hosted by Jack Webb, and producing multiple broadcasts of The People's Choice Awards, Oscars and Primetime Emmy Awards.

Finkel went on to recount producing numerous hits of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Eddie Fisher Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, and The Andy Williams Show.

He fondly recalled working with Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Julie Andrews and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, among others, and shared his views on why variety shows all but disappeared from the airwaves.

The interview may be viewed online here.

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