Noam Pitlik; Character Actor, Director

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Noam Pitlik, Emmy and Peabody award-winning television director for such series as "Barney Miller" and a character actor in vintage shows like "The Bob Newhart Show" and "Hogan's Heroes," as well as the current "Becker," has died. He was 66.

Pitlik died of lung cancer Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

In recent years Pitlik was best known as a director whose booming laugh, bear hugs and belief that a television show is a collaborative effort endeared him to actors and crew members.

He directed about 100 episodes of "Barney Miller," which ran from 1975 to 1982, starring Hal Linden as a police captain in New York's 12th Precinct. For his efforts, Pitlik earned the Emmy, the Peabody and the Directors Guild of America awards.

He also directed more than 200 episodes and pilots for other prime-time television series, including "Taxi," "Wings," "One Day at a Time," "Mr. Belvedere," "Home Court," "Fish" and Danny Thomas' sitcom "The Practice."

Pitlik won respect and praise from television colleagues and media critics for bringing out winning performances from such performers as Stephanie Beacham. He directed her in the successful pilot that launched the NBC series "Sister Kate," which Times critic Howard Rosenberg termed "the boldest, brassiest, funniest comedy series of the new season" in 1989.

But before Pitlik became a director, he was the consummate character actor. Only recently had he moved in front of the camera again to play Mr. Schmalen in Ted Danson's current series, "Becker."

Pitlik began acting at Philadelphia's WCAU-TV in a daily live Western series called "Action in the Afternoon." In New York, he made his off-Broadway debut in "The Threepenny Opera" in 1957.

The actor moved to Hollywood in the early 1960s and made 18 motion pictures while he also became familiar on television. He was one of Bob Newhart's eclectic group of psychiatric patients, Victor Gianelli, in the original Newhart hit from 1972 to 1978.

Pitlik posed as numerous Nazi officers in "Hogan's Heroes" and appeared frequently on the popular series "Bewitched," "Sanford and Son," "Gunsmoke," "The Fugitive," "I Dream of Jeannie," "Mod Squad," "Ben Casey" and "Love, American Style."

Among the films in which Pitlik appeared were "The Graduate" in 1967, "Downhill Racer" and "The Big Bounce" in 1969 and director Billy Wilder's 1974 version of "The Front Page."

Pitlik is survived by his wife, Susan; a brother, Hillel, and two stepchildren, Ian and Carrie Hirsch.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made to A Place Called Home in Los Angeles or to the Second Harvest in Chicago.

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