NEW YORK - Paul Bogart, a puppeteer who bumbled into the new medium of television in 1950 and rose to be an Emmy-winning director for popular shows like “All in the Family’’ and “The Defenders,’’ died Sunday in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 92 and lived in Chapel Hill.
His son, Peter, announced the death.
Mr. Bogart was recognized as a master of live television, from game shows to drama, and later as a respected director of filmed shows such as “Get Smart.’’ Known for his skill in positioning actors for best effect and his attention to editing, he was “always just this side or that side of brilliant,’’ Tom Shales wrote in The Washington Post in 1979.
The Christian Science Monitor called Mr. Bogart “America’s leading sitcom director’’ in 1982.
One of his five Emmys was for directing an episode of “All in the Family’’ titled “Edith’s 50th Birthday,’’ considered to be one of the more nerve-shattering shows in television history. First shown in October 1977, it depicted an intruder trying to rape Edith, played by Jean Stapleton.
Mr. Bogart also won an Emmy in 1965 for directing a two-part episode of the series “The Defenders.’’ In 1968 and 1970, he won for directing episodes of “CBS Playhouse.’’
His fifth Emmy, shared with five others in 1986, was as a producer of “The Golden Girls,’’ named outstanding comedy.
Mr. Bogart’s theatrical films included Bob Hope’s last film, “Cancel My Reservation’’ (1972).
Paul Bogoff, who changed his name to sound more American (the family had earlier changed it from Bogoslavsky for the same reason), was born in Harlem.
In a 2001 interview with the Archive of American Television, he said that his birthday was Nov. 13, 1919, but that one of his parents put Nov. 21 on the birth certificate because he or she considered 13 unlucky.
His parents divorced when he was a child, and he, his mother, and his two sisters depended on charity to survive. He developed a taste for show business by stealing money to go to the movies.
He graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx. While working as a printer, he answered an ad saying, “Puppeteer: No Experience Necessary.’’ He joined a traveling marionette troupe.
In 1941, he married Alma Jane Gitnick. They divorced in the 1970s. In addition to his son, Mr. Bogart leaves his daughters, Tracy and Jennifer; his sister, Jeanette Cavaris; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Mr. Bogart served in the Army Air Forces in World War II, and returned to the marionette company as well as working at odd jobs, including truck driver.
A friend told him there might be a television job at NBC and he applied, lying about his experience and education. He was ushered to the studio where “Broadway Open House,’’ network television’s first late-night comedy-variety show, was being televised. He was introduced to the floor manager, as stage managers were then called, during a commercial break. The floor manager handed him his earphones and scurried off to another set.
Winging it, Mr. Bogart realized the voice coming through the earphones was from the director sitting in the booth. He then correctly deduced that he was supposed to pass on the director’s instructions to the actors with hand signals, which he made up.
Such were the early days of television. “Everybody was making up their job,’’ Mr. Bogart said.
He soon moved up to associate director and worked on the new “Today’’ show, “Howdy Doody,’’ and other programs. He began directing live dramas in what is now called television’s golden age. He worked with producer Herbert Brodkin on an episode of “The Goodyear Playhouse,’’ which led to his working with Brodkin on “The Defenders.’’
The author Budd Schulberg, writing in Life magazine in 1970, called Mr. Bogart “an actor’s director,’’ describing him as “a bearded Buddha with satyric eyes that conceal his philosophic gentleness.’’
But he had an edge. Newsweek reported in 1989 on a meeting he had with Harvey Fierstein about possibly directing Fierstein’s “Torch Song Trilogy’’ as a movie. It had been a success on Broadway, where it ran from 1982 to 1985, but Fierstein, who both wrote and starred in the play, had delayed making a film version. “Torch Song’’ told of the life and loves of a New York drag queen, and no director had seemed appropriate until he met Mr. Bogart, who “seemed so naturally unafraid’’ of the material.
Fierstein may have been persuaded by what happened when they first met. He was wearing a see-through, floor-length black bathrobe. Mr. Bogart took one look and said, “This is our first meeting; don’t you think you should cover your breasts?’’