Irwin Allen, the director and producer of such science fiction adventures and disaster epics as "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno," died Saturday of a heart attack. He was 75.
Allen had been in poor health for several months, an associate said. A spokeswoman for Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center, where Allen was taken by his wife, Sheila, just before 7 a.m. Saturday, said he was pronounced dead a short time later.
"He was one of a kind and he contributed a great deal to the industry with his talents and creativity, and he will be greatly missed by those who loved him," said his wife of 16 years.
Allen is best known as the benevolent king of disaster movies, which he popularized in the 1970s. Although some critics called his productions childishly entertaining and his characters shallow, his films captivated audiences with their grand-scale special effects and top-name actors such as Steve McQueen and Paul Newman.
As a producer, writer and director, he was known among colleagues as a soft-spoken perfectionist who became boyishly excited while directing his action sequences. Al Gail, Allen's cousin and associate, said Allen's greatest trait was loyalty to his actors. "He practically never fired anyone," Gail said.
Among those Allen called upon to appear in several of his movies were Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Michael Caine and Peter Lorre.
In a 1974 interview with The Times, Allen said he sympathized with his actors. "I suffer along with them," he said. "We have many story conferences. As a writer-director-producer, I have triple agonies. I'm bucking to be known as the most sympathetic producer in town."
After filming "The Towering Inferno" in 1974, Allen boasted about keeping his actors protected from harm.
"I spent two years and $14,733,000 making 'The Towering Inferno.' Twelve Stars. Daily calls for 300 stunt people--the biggest calls for stunt people in history. It was like staging World War V. And with all those burning buildings, not a hair of one of my actors was singed," he said.
While disaster and science fiction films were his forte, he won his only Oscar for his 1953 directorial debut in "The Sea Around Us," a documentary about ocean life.
Allen came to Hollywood from New York in 1938 and worked as a magazine editor, a Hollywood newspaper columnist and literary agent before turning to filmmaking in 1951.
As a television producer, he was responsible for several popular science fiction series, including "Lost in Space," "Land of the Giants," "Swiss Family Robinson" and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," a spinoff of the movie.
Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday.