Filmmaker Robert Butler passed away earlier in the month on November 3 at 95 years old, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
A director of film and TV, Butler directed the pilot episodes for both the 1966 Batman series starring the late Adam West and the original live-action Star Trek series in 1988, in turn setting the tone for both shows that they’re now well-known for. While his time with Trek technically ended there—he’s credited as director for part two of Trek’s “The Menagerie,” as most of that episode reuses footage from the unaired pilot “The Cage”—he went on to direct six Batman episodes overall. All of those were early on in season one and consisted of two-parters which introduced the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) in “Hi Diddle Riddler/Smack in the Middle”, the Penguin (Burgess Meredith) in “Fine Feathered Finks/The Penguin’s a Jinx,” and George Sanders’ Mr. Freeze in “Instant Freeze/Rats Like Cheese.”
Butler directed a lot of television, and much of his filmography consisted of genre shows such as The Twilight Zone (“Caesar & Me,” “The Encounter”), and Mission: Impossible (“The Mind of Stefan Miklos”). In 1993, he directed the pilot episode to Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and served as one of the executive producers on that show. He was nominated for an Emmy multiple times for directing episodes of Lois, Remington Steele (which he co-created), and won one for the pilot of The Blue Knight. His final episode of directed TV was for the 2001 Lifetime series The Division.
He was similarly busy in films, having directed many theatrical or made-for-TV movies like 1975’s Strange New World, 1969’s The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and 1988’s Out of Time. In 2015, the Directors Guild of America granted him a Lifetime Achievement Award for television direction.
“Robert Butler was an adoring father, grandfather, uncle, friend and teacher, who shared his zeal for film, jazz, books, tennis, and model rocket,” his family wrote. “Annual family vacations to La Jolla and the California desert were an important family tradition. He never went anywhere without his Pentax camera loaded with Kodak Tri-X film.”
“Few Directors have changed the face of television as much as Bob did—his impact on the medium is truly immeasurable and this loss to our Guild is deeply felt,” wrote the DGA in its own statement. “At ease in any genre, Bob’s pilots established the look and feel of several seminal series including Hogan’s Heroes, Batman and Star Trek. […] Bob’s legacy will live on in the memories of the many Directors he influenced and mentored, and the countless viewers who laughed and cheered along with his exceptional work. Our deepest condolences to his family and the many Directors and directorial team members who knew and loved him.”
Butler’s family has invited others to send their condolence here.
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