Pevney, Joseph: Vet Director of Film and TV (Star Trek) Dies at 96

May 31, 2008–Joseph Pevney, a Hollywood film and TV director who helmed many popular episodes of the original “Star Trek” TV series in the late 1960s, had died May 18 of age-related causes at his home in Palm Desert. He was 96.

Pevney began as a Broadway actor, before playing supporting roles in some films noir in the late 1940s. He then directed movies such as “Man of a Thousand Faces,” with Jimmy Cagney, and “Tammy and the Bachelor.”

Focusing on television from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s, when he retired, Pevney directed episodes of numerous series such as “Wagon Train,” “The Munsters,” “The Fugitive,” “Bonanza,” “12 O'Clock High,” “The Virginian,” “Adam-12,” “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” “Emergency,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Fantasy Island,” “Medical Center” and “Trapper John, M.D.”

Star Trek

But “Star Trek,” the classic sci-fi series that ran on NBC from 1966 to 1969, was Pevney's most durable TV credit as a director. Pevney directed 14 episodes of the original series, tying with the late Marc Daniels as the credited director of the most episodes. He helmed some of the top fan-favorite episodes, including “The City on the Edge of Forever,” “Amok Time,” “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “Journey to Babel.”

“The first half of the second year of the show, when he was alternating with Marc Daniels, is regarded as the best part of the series,” said Jeff Bond, author of “The Music of Star Trek” and editor of the magazine Geek Monthly. “That's when it hit its stride. There was more humor, it was more adventurous, and the tone, I think, was lighter.”

Bond said Pevney directed “the first real comedy episode of the series, 'The Trouble With Tribbles,' which was a complete, all-out comedy about the ship sort of getting infested with a bunch of furry creatures. And he certainly worked on some of the strongest dramatic episodes.”

“The City on the Edge of Forever,” from a script by Harlan Ellison and guest-starring Joan Collins, “is considered to be the best episode of the original series,” Bond said.

Pevney's son, Jay, said his father “loved the series and enjoyed working with the actors and being part of the beginning of it. He was surprised at the longevity of it because it was not a popular series at the time; it hit its real popularity [in syndication] after it was over.”

Born September 15, 1911, in New York City, Pevney launched his showbiz career in 1924 as a boy soprano in vaudeville. After becoming an actor, he appeared on Broadway in the 1930s and 1940s in plays such as “Battle Hymn,” “The World We Make,” “Native Son” and “Home of the Brave.”

During WWII, he served in the Army Signal Corps and staged revues for troops in Europe. After the war, Pevney was part of actor Paul Muni's “Key Largo” troupe when he arrived in Los Angeles. He made his film debut as the piano-playing killer in the 1946 film noir “Nocturne,” starring George Raft.

Pevney appeared in “Thieves' Highway,” “The Street With No Name” and “Body and Soul,” the classic boxing film in which he played John Garfield's feisty pal Shorty Polaski.

He made his debut as a movie director with “Shakedown,” a 1950 film noir with Howard Duff, Brian Donlevy and Lawrence Tierney.

Pevney went on to direct more than 35 movies, most of them in the 1950s, including “Meet Danny Wilson,” starring Frank Sinatra and Shelley Winters; “3 Ring Circus,” starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; “Female on the Beach,” starring Joan Crawford and Jeff Chandler; and “Twilight for the Gods,” starring Rock Hudson and Cyd Charisse.

At his peak at Universal-International in 1957, Pevney had three movies that were released at the same time: “Man of a Thousand Faces,” a biographical drama about silent film star Lon Chaney, starring James Cagney; “Tammy and the Bachelor,” a comedy-romance starring Debbie Reynolds; and “The Midnight Story,” a crime-drama starring Tony Curtis.

Pevney retired in 1985 and moved to Palm Desert several years later. His first wife, actress Mitzi Green, died in 1969; his second wife, Philippa, died in 1996; andhis son, David, died in 1998.

In addition to Margo, his wife of 6 years, and his son Jay, Pevney is survived by his daughter, Jan Pevney Holt; his son, Joel; 2 grandchildren; and 3 great-grandchildren.