Wednesday, August 5, 2015

DARK SHADOWS director Lela Swift has died

Actor Louis Edmonds, Louis Edmonds, assistant Harriet Rohr and director Lela Swift on the set of DARK SHADOWS.
News reports are circulating that trailblazing director Lela Swift died yesterday at her home in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 96 years old.

Swift directed 588 episodes of DARK SHADOWS. To put that into perspective, that's more than twice as many episodes as directors Henry Kaplan and John Sedwick combined, and represents about half of the show's 1,225-episode run.

I don't have especially strong opinions about the quality of Swift's work. It's not the job of a television director to distinguish themselves, but to deliver the expected look and feel of the established series. Even someone with the (let's call it) flair of Quentin Tarantino managed to disappear entirely when directing episodes of E.R. and C.S.I. And I'd challenge anybody to try to find the signature style of Steven Spielberg in those early episodes of COLUMBO and MARCUS WELBY, M.D. that he directed. When television directors do their jobs well, it's as if they did nothing at all.

"To succeed as a TV director these days you either have to be very sound of mind, or else a little bit crazy," she wrote in a 1953 editorial for The Brooklyn Eagle. "Because then everything that happens just seems normal to you."

During the same interview, Swift told aspiring artists what they might expect from a life in entertainment. Her advice pretty well  describes her years working on DARK SHADOWS.

"When you go into the business of television, expect the exhilaration of a difficult job well done, the agony of a carefully planned effect ruined by an on-the-air accident, the happiness and the heartache that goes with the show business everywhere," she said. "Expect to care about everything a great deal. Expect to live it. I do."


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