Hal Kanter was a prolific comedy writer whose career spanned six decades of radio, films television comedies and awards shows.
Born in Savannah, Georgia on December 18, 1918, his family moved to Long Island when he was a child. His father, Albert, created
Classics Illustrated, comic-book versions of classic books. From a young age, Kanter was interested in theater and creating
cartoons and writing jokes. He sold his first cartoon in 1933 and for the following five years was a free-lance cartoonist
for newspapers and magazines. In 1936 his work took him to Hollywood where he wrote for the Jack Oakie radio program. Kanter
briefly wrote for Olsen and Johnson's Hellzapoppin' in New York, and then as a freelancer wrote 25 radio dramas before his
March 1941 induction into the U.S. Army. Until his discharge in 1945, Kanter wrote, produced, and acted in Armed Forces Radio
Service shows aired over stations KOA, KLZ, and other local stations in Colorado; built and ran radio stations in Eniwetok
and Guam; and served as a combat correspondent on Iwo Jima.
Kanter flourished in TV's Golden Age, beginning by co-creating and writing the innovative Ed Wynn Show in 1950. Making the
leap to film the following year, Kanter co-wrote Two Tickets to Broadway for RKO. He landed a contract with Paramount Pictures
soon after, where his assignments included several Bob Hope hit comedies, including My Favorite Spy (1951) and Casanova's
Big Night (1953). In 1952, he co-wrote The Road to Bali for Hope and Bing Crosby. During this period, Kanter also wrote several
screenplays that helped launch another comedy team, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, including Money from Home (1953) and Artists
and Models (1955). Flexing his dramatic skills, Kanter adapted the 1954 screen version of Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo.
In 1955, Kanter co-wrote and made his TV directorial debut with the award-winning George Gobel Show (for which Kanter shared
a Best Written Comedy Material Emmy in 1955). The following year, Kanter made his film directorial debut with I Married A
Woman, starring Gobel. Kanter also directed pop icon Elvis Presley in his hit movie Loving You (1957), and Rowan & Martin
in their western spoof Once Upon A Horse (1957). Over the next decade, Kanter wrote or co-wrote numerous screenplays, including
Mardi Gras (1958), Let's Make Love (which earned a shared 1960 WGA nomination), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), and Blue Hawaii,
which earned a 1962 WGA nomination.
Returning to television in the mid-'60s, Kanter created Julia, starring Diahann Carrroll, the first network television show
with a female African-American lead, that shattered stereotypes in its portrayal of a professional, working woman of color.
This earned Kanter an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1969. In 1976, Kanter was hired as Bob Hope's head writer. That
same year, he was named Executive Producer of the seminal sitcom All in the Family (for which Kanter shared a 1976 Emmy nomination
for Outstanding Comedy Series). Beginning in the early 1950s Kanter began writing for the annual Academy Awards telecast,
often hosted by his friend Bob Hope. He contributed to the telecasts long after Hope had ceded hosting duties to others, and
in all wrote for 34 Oscars ceremonies. He twice shared Emmy Awards, for the 63rd and 64th Oscar telecasts. In 1999, at the
age of 80, Kanter published his candid autobiography, So Far, So Funny: My Life in Show Business.
Hal Kanter was an active member of the Writers Guild of America, joining in 1950 and remaining for the rest of his life. He
was also a founding member of the Writers Guild Foundation, and served on its board from 1979 to his death. “Perhaps one of
Kanter's most indelible contributions to the Guild has taken place outside the boardroom: contributing a wealth of material
for many annual Writers Guild Awards shows, adding his signature comic sensibility as writer, host, presenter, and featured
entertainer over the years.” For all of his achievements and service, he received the WGA West’s Valentine Davies Award for
industry/community service in 1983, the WGA West’s Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television in 1989, and the WGA West’s
Morgan Cox Award for service to the Guild in 2005.
Kanter passed away on November 6, 2011 at his home in Encino at the age of 92. He was survived by his wife of 70 years, writer
Doris Kanter (m. September 5, 1941); his daughters Donna Kanter, Lisa Kanter Shafer and Abigail Kanter Jaye; his sister, Saralea
Emerson; and a granddaughter.—Adapted from a WGAw press release.