Richard C. Sarafian, Director of ‘Vanishing Point,’ Dies at 83
Twentieth Century Fox
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: September 22, 2013
Richard C. Sarafian, a filmmaker whose 1971 car-chase thriller, “Vanishing Point,” earned him a loyal cult following, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 83.
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The cause was pneumonia, which he contracted while recovering from a fall, his son Deran said.
Mr. Sarafian worked primarily in television early in his career, directing episodes of shows like “Gunsmoke,” “I Spy,” “77 Sunset Strip” and “Batman.” He also directed one of the most fondly remembered episodes of “The Twilight Zone”: “Living Doll,” the chilling tale of a demonic talking doll named Talky Tina who terrifies a man played by Telly Savalas.
That episode, first shown in 1963, also terrified children for decades — including Mr. Sarafian’s own. Deran Sarafian said he thought the episode was “the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen” before learning that his father had directed it.
Mr. Sarafian’s feature films included “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing” (1973), with Burt Reynolds and Sarah Miles, and “Sunburn” (1979), with Farrah Fawcett and Charles Grodin. But he was best known for “Vanishing Point,” a dark story about a drug-fueled car chase through the Nevada desert brought on by a bet between a Vietnam veteran (Barry Newman) and his dealer, with a blind D.J. (Cleavon Little) offering the hero encouragement over the radio.
The film was an acknowledged influence on the generation of maverick moviemakers and actors who would come to dominate Hollywood in the 1970s. “Warren Beatty and Sean Penn and people like that absolutely adore him,” Deran Sarafian said.
Mr. Beatty, a particularly devoted fan, used Mr. Sarafian as an actor in his films “Bugsy” (1991) and “Bulworth” (1998). Mr. Sarafian was also admired by later directors like Quentin Tarantino, who gave him a “special thanks” credit at the end of his own car-chase film, “Death Proof.”
Mr. Sarafian was born in New York City on April 28, 1930. He was married twice to Helen Joan Altman, the sister of his friend and fellow director Robert Altman. She died in 2011. In addition to his son Deran, his survivors include three other sons and a daughter.