Obituary: James Goldstone

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The Independent Culture
THE DIRECTOR James Goldstone made some of American television's biggest hits of the Sixties but is best remembered for the pilot episode of Star Trek. Goldstone refused to direct the resulting series, which became a cult classic, on the grounds that he did not enjoy the monotony of working on a long-running programme. But he admitted: "It was fun creating from the bottom up, building characters and story premisses you could relate to on a human level."

Born in Los Angeles in 1931, Goldstone studied drama at Bennington College, Vermont, served in the US Army, then worked as a film editor. From 1957, he worked in television as a writer and story editor, before making it as a director.

During the Sixties, he directed a string of programmes that became world- wide hits. Dr Kildare (1961-66), starring Richard Chamberlain as a heart- throb intern, featured medical melodramas and attracted 15 million viewers in America, although in Britain it was never as popular as Dr Finlay's Casebook.

Goldstone also directed three episodes of the long-running series The Fugitive (1963-67), in which David Janssen starred as a man on the run after being convicted of a murder he did not commit. Its impact on international audiences was sensational and the last of its many cliffhangers was seen by 72 per cent of America's television-viewing public.

The classic science-fiction anthology series The Outer Limits (1963- 65) was another on which Goldstone worked, as was the gadget-filled Sixties spy spoof The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-67), starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-68), a spin-off from the 1961 blockbuster film, and the less enduring Honey West (1965- 66), about a female judo-kicking, leather-clad private eye.

Then, the former Second World War pilot Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek, his vision of a future without wars, famine or prejudice, but the first pilot episode, "The Cage", featuring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike, was rejected by television executives. Uniquely, the NBC network commissioned a second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", and Goldstone was chosen to direct it, with William Shatner stepping in as Captain James T. Kirk. The episode was transmitted as the third in the resulting series, but Goldstone refused to commit himself to any more.

Screened in peak-time on the American network NBC between 1966 and 1969, Star Trek struggled to build up an audience. However, in the wake of the first Moon landing, in 1969, Captain Kirk, the pointy-eared Vulcan Mr Spock and the rest of the Starship Enterprise crew found a new audience when the programme was repeated. It won a world-wide following, became the most popular cult television programme of all time and spawned three spin-off series and nine feature films.

Goldstone moved on from Star Trek's unsure beginnings to direct another pilot, Ironside (1967), featuring the Perry Mason television star Raymond Burr. In that production, Chief Robert T. Ironside was consigned to a wheelchair after falling prey to an attempted assassin's bullet. So popular was the programme that it became a series, although Goldstone again moved on.

Over the next 20 years, he combined making television films such as Eric (about an athletic youth's fight against terminal illness, which won the Virgin Islands International Film Festival Gold Medal, 1975) with work for the big screen that included Jigsaw (1968), the motor- racing drama Winning (1969), Brother John (featuring Sidney Poitier as a black Messiah returning to Earth, 1972) and the whodunit They Only Kill Their Masters (1972).

In later years, Goldstone found his greatest success on television with biopics, the mini-series Studs Lonigan (1979) and The Sun Also Rises (1984), the Old West drama Calamity Jane (1984) and Kent State (1981), which depicted the murder of four Ohio students and won him an Emmy award as Outstanding Director.

Anthony Hayward

James Goldstone, television and film director, writer and producer: born Los Angeles 8 June 1931; married; died Shaftesbury, Vermont 5 November 1999.