Revolutionary theater, television and film director Arthur Penn died Tuesday at his home in New York City, just one day after celebrating his 88th birthday. The The New York Times reports that the director, perhaps most well-known for 1967's "Bonnie and Clyde," passed away from congestive heart failure.
The Times calls Penn "a pioneering director of live television drama in the 1950s and a Broadway powerhouse in the 1960s," and praises his ability to develop an "intimate, spontaneous and physically oriented method of directing actors that allowed their work to register across a range of mediums."
Penn was born on September 27, 1922, in Philadelphia. He began his career in television and made a name for himself in 1957 with the production of "The Miracle Worker," adapted from the stage for television on CBS' "Playhouse 90," for which he earned an Emmy nomination.
Two years later, Penn took "The Miracle Worker" to Broadway, and he and star Anne Bancroft were awarded Tonys. In 1962, he directed the feature-film version with Bancroft, who went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress, alongside a young Patty Duke, who picked up a statue for Best Supporting Actress.
Penn also advised then-Senator John F. Kennedy during his debates with Richard Nixon in 1960 and directed the broadcast of the third debate.
All of these events led up to his most memorable work, directing Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in "Bonnie and Clyde."
"Arthur Penn brought the sensibility of '60s European art films to American movies," writer/director Paul Schrader told The New York Times. "He paved the way for the new generation of American directors who came out of film schools."
Penn continued to work in film, television and theater with some of the biggest and brightest names in the business, though none of those projects reached the level of critical mass as "Bonnie and Clyde" had done. His last theatrically released film was the apartheid drama "Inside," in 1996. Penn served as an executive producer on several episodes of "Law and Order" in his later years, followed by one of his final theatrical productions, "Fortune's Fool," which earned Tonys for Alan Bates and Frank Langella in 2002.
Penn is survived by his wife of 54 years, Peggy Maurer, a son, Matthew, a daughter, Molly, and four grandsons.
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