September 20, 1925|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
|Died||November 12, 2009
Malibu, California, United States
|Spouse(s)||Ruth Bernat (1953-78; her death)
Lin Bolen Wendkos (1983-2009; his death)
|Children||Jordan Elkan Wendkos|
Following World War II service in the United States Navy and his education at Columbia University on the G.I. Bill, Wendkos made his first feature, a documentary on a school for the blind called Dark Interlude in 1953.
Wendkos' first feature film was The Burglar. His fluid camera technique caught the attention of the head of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn, who not only wished to distribute the film but put Wendkos under contract.
A variety of films followed, beginning with the hard-hitting crime drama The Case Against Brooklyn, the suspenseful war dramas Tarawa Beachhead and Battle of the Coral Sea, the youth-oriented Gidget and two sequels, Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Gidget Goes to Rome, as well as Because They're Young.
Wendkos also worked extensively in television, directing many episodes of Playhouse 90, Alcoa Theatre, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Route 66, The Rifleman, Mr. Novak, Honey West, The Big Valley, I Spy, The Invaders and Hawaii Five-O. When Wendkos worked on I Spy, he was dismissed from the production when the producers deemed the episodes he had filmed to have been too "arty".
In 1968 Wendkos signed a five-picture contract with Mirisch Productions, beginning with the war films Attack on the Iron Coast and Hell Boats, followed by two westerns set in Mexico (but filmed in Spain), Guns of the Magnificent Seven and Cannon for Cordoba. He also made the first feature film for Quinn Martin, The Mephisto Waltz.
From 1970 until his retirement in 1999, Wendkos specialized in made-for-television movies—one of these was The Taking of Flight 847: The Uli Derickson Story (1988), based on a TWA hijacking in 1985. It picked up five Emmy nominations, including one for Wendkos.
Wendkos married Ruth Bernat on March 1, 1953, and had one son, Jordan Elkan Wendkos. Ruth died in June 1978. In 1983, Wendkos married Lin Bolen, former NBC VP and producer; they lived in Malibu, California, until his death.
- The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968, by Andrew Sarris
- The American Vein: Directors and Directions in Television by Christopher Wicking and Tise Vahimagi (Talisman Books (England) / E.P. Dutton (United States), 1979)