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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in New Jersey, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (complications from prostate cancer)
Nickname Herb

Mini Bio (1)

Herbert Kenwith, born in New Jersey, started his career as an actor and appeared in several Broadway productions. His last was as "Bellboy" in "I Remember Mama" starring Mady Christians, produced by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, from 1944-46 (he was also Assistant Stage Manager). His first stage credit for producer / director was for "Night Must Fall," starring May Whitty. As Broadway's youngest producer, Kenwith--with Paul Feigay, Oliver Smith and David Cummings--produced the 1948 Gertrude Berg play "Me and Molly," (26 Feb-10 July 1948), starring Berg as Molly Goldberg. The production was voted "one of the season's ten best plays".

After Broadway Kenwith produced and directed all 65 productions for Princeton University's McCarter Theatre for six very successful summers. The productions featured such leads as Lucille Ball, Mae West, Charlton Heston, Shelley Winters, Cesar Romero, Walter Matthau, Maureen Stapleton, Eve Arden, Constance Bennett, Joan Bennett, Paul Muni, Miriam Hopkins, Gloria Swanson, Jeanette MacDonald, Zazu Pitts and Nancy Reagan (known at the time as Nancy Davis). In the infant medium of New York television, CBS hired Kenwith as an associate director. Within seven weeks he was assigned to direct the daytime soap opera Valiant Lady (1953), followed by Lamp Unto My Feet (1948), Suspicion (1957), The Investigator (1958), The Polly Bergen Show (1957) and Jonathan Winters in his weekly television comedy show.

For his first three years at NBC Television, Kenwith directed the series The Doctors (1963) starring Ellen Burstyn. Picking up directing assignments on network television specials, he directed such stars as Danny Kaye, Billy Eckstine, Sidney Poitier and even Rose Kennedy. Within three weeks of his arrival in Hollywood Kenwith was directing episodes of Death Valley Days (1952), The Name of the Game (1968), Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969), Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) and Daktari (1966), along with television pilots for all the networks. Among the performers he worked with while at the Princeton University McCarter Theatre was Lucille Ball, who tapped Kenwith as a director for her television series Here's Lucy (1968), NBC and 20th Century-Fox revived a five-day drama series based upon the night-time drama Peyton Place (1964), retitled Return to Peyton Place (1972). NBC contracted Kenwith to alternate daily directing assignments until the series was canceled in 1975. He directed the first episode of the CBS daytime drama The Young and the Restless (1973), followed by alternating directorial assignments on "Return to Peyton Place".

Norman Lear signed Kenwith to a seven-year contract as producer and director at Lear's factory of television shows, and he helmed such shows as "Different Strokes" (1972)_, _"The Facts of Life" (1974)_, Good Times (1974), One Day at a Time (1975) and the night-time comedy-soap opera All That Glitters (1977). Numerous prime-time sitcoms Kenwith directed included NBC's Sanford and Son (1972) featuring Redd Foxx, Demond Wilson and LaWanda Page, and the short-lived NBC series Joe's World (1979) starring K Callan. His long association and friendship with Mae West resulted in his directing her theatrical stage projects.

Although of the same physical appearance and height as Napoléon Bonaparte. Kenwith--a non-smoker and teetotaler--was known for his charming personality, a tremendous sense of humor and a friendly disposition that put any performer at ease during a guest appearance on a television or theatrical production. Kenwith, friendly with his television technical stage crew, could request and receive immediate response because of his affable attitude. His realm of expertise was respected and admired by his entire theatrical crew. Two featured characters in "All That Glitters" were Eileen Brennan as Ma Packer and her lazy son, Sonny Packer, played by Tim Thomerson. Sonny's role of wannabe Elvis Presley impersonator--always strumming his guitar, practicing swinging hips and rock movements--was diligently encouraged by Ma Packer. Their principal abode was a run-down farm shack. In preparation for the first introduction of the outlandish pair, Kenwith and Brennan requested the littered straw and dirt studio set floor be inhabited with a small pot-bellied pig and a dozen chickens. The first day of videotaping Ma and Sonny Packer's introduction in the series, Brennan picked up one of the hens, holding the chicken in her arms like a pet cat, petting and soothing the clucking hen while performing her character's motherly role. For the entire week she carried the same hen in her arms, with the chickens pecking seeds from the straw on the ramshackle floor. The following week the producers decided to cancel the livestock! Arriving early on set for rehearsal, Brennan and Kenworth confronted the dull-witted producers--"Where were the chickens?"--only to find out that the critters were taken out in order to save money on a chicken wrangler and his flock of hens! The cast and crew waited for an hour for the wrangler and his flock to arrive. Thereafter, Brennan and her chicken co-star with the flock of hens were featured until Ma moved uptown, with Sonny becoming a full-fledged rock star on a local television station talent show, landing a gig at a local Western bar and stardom! Ma Packer, now a sexy glamorous theatrical agent, became a music-rock group phenomena.

Kenwith lived in a large four-bedroom home above the famous Hollywood Sunset Strip, with a southwest view of the Los Angeles cityscape. The home had at one time belonged to the permanent host for Princess Grace Kelly and her husband Prince Rainier of Monaco on their visits to Southern California, as they never stayed in a hotel. After retiring from the television industry, Kenwith downsized, relocating to a condo-penthouse in Beverly Hills, in Century City. He died at age 90 on January 30, 2008, in Los Angeles of complications from prostate cancer.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: A. Nonymous

Trivia (1)

Survived by his niece, Lori Low-Schwartz, and nephews, Arnold Winick, Richard Flexner and Gary Low.

See also

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