Tue, 07/20/2021

Remembering Joseph Behar

Joseph Behar

We’re sad to learn that director Joseph Behar has passed away at the age of 94. Behar began his career in local Philadelphia television, directing several of Ernie Kovacs’ series. He went on to impressively long-running positions, directing Let’s Make a Deal for fourteen years and Days of Our Lives for twenty-two years. He also directed the pilot of General Hospital in 1963, then returned to the show for over a decade in the 1990s.

Below are some selections from his 2003 interview:

On getting hired to direct Let’s Make a Deal:

I was doing soap opera around ’59, ’60 for CBS called Clear Horizon, and I had been at the soap opera there for about a year and a half and that went off the air. But I got to know the people over at CBS … And they had a guy there whose name was Red Rowe he was like a sort of comedian and he did a game show called Face the Facts. And it was a good show for me because … it’s like People’s Court except instead of using real people we would use actors and he would be the judge this actor would give his side of the story … and then this guy would give his end and he would pound the gavel and give some silly [ruling]. Sort of like a game show. It’s the first game show I ever did, but I sort of had to direct the actors. And then I got to know the head of daytime over there at CBS. NBC was going to do the pilot for Let’s Make a Deal. So Monty Hall and Steve Hatos didn’t have a director and so they said we need a director for this, and [the head of daytime] said well we have this guy I know from CBS, he did a good job over there, you know try him. So I interviewed over there, I talked to them, and they gave me the job to do it. That wasn’t an easy show to do, that was a complicated shoot. Lot of stuff going on, on that show, the prizes and all the wild stuff. And that’s how I got to do that show.

On directing the pilot of General Hospital and how it led to Days of Our Lives:

I did General Hospital in ’63. …I had done soap opera, I did soap operas at CBS, Clear Horizon and some other soap operas and out here in those days there weren’t a lot of people who knew how to do that stuff because all those soap operas, there were about fourteen of them, were all done in New York and the people out here, well they didn’t have a lot of directors with any experience. I mean it’s one of those things you have to know how to do because it’s so much material to get in, and try to do it in one day. So I had a lot of experience doing that. And I also know how to do it, didn’t know how to do it well but I knew how to do it fast, which is a big thing. So when they did a pilot for General Hospital and they had an idea which would turn out to be a terrible idea, they were going to save money on sets and everything and they were going to do it in their offices at ABC. And they went and did a pilot and the offices were the hospital and the writing was atrocious, everything was bad and the story wasn’t good and it was awful. I mean to recoup from that you know they didn’t know what else to do. The script was good and everything, so they right away started to change it and build sets and do the pilot in a normal situation so then they called me cause I was one of those people that had the experienced to do it, they didn’t even know how to. So I did the pilot for General Hospital and that was a complicated - not complicated so much in that the show was complicated but, they had never done a show like that over there. ABC wasn’t familiar with that and we had trouble with sound, we had trouble with, we had radio mikes on people, rubber ears on the actors and stuff it was really hard to do. And then after all that effort, I stayed there all day doing that pilot then they said that - and networks always do this - and they say, this has to be in New York by 9 o’clock tomorrow morning. And I’m saying wait a minute we just spent you know 12 hours, 13 hours here shooting this, we got to edit it. And they said, right, we’re going to send it over on a separate plane or something and it’s got to be there by 9. So we spent all night long editing that thing with the razor blade and we got it done, and we sent it and they loved it and they put it on the air. But I never did it because I was busy doing other stuff. But, but after I did that pilot and I was busy doing other things, then the Days of Our Lives people they knew that I had experience doing soap operas, so they were doing this big pilot...so they wanted somebody who knew how.

On coming out of retirement to direct General Hospital in the 1990s:

I officially retired. And then they call me, one of the producers from General Hospital called, who I had worked with before. She said, we’re having trouble with a director on our staff and we’re stuck for two shows that we have to do in November, and can you come and do them? And I said, no, I don’t really want to do that, I stopped doing that in 1988. So I don’t want to do that anymore. She said, as a favor? So anyway long story short, I went over there, and I did those two shows and they liked what I did, so then they call me back in December ’93, I think, and they said could you do two more for us? And I said oh, okay. Anyway, those people over at General Hospital are so nice, the people that work there, the actors, andthe staff there and the crew and the engineering department are so competent, besides being super competent they are such a nice people. … So anyway, I started to do one every other week and I didn’t like that, I couldn’t keep track of what was going on. So I said its better if I do three or four in a row and then I’ll take off. … It’s fun to do, you know. It’s like a hobby.

Watch Joseph Behar’s full interview and read his obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.