The White Shadow
Emmy Award nominated producer, director and writer Bruce Paltrow (1943-2002) became famous for his work on the CBS drama series “The White Shadow” (1978-1981) and the NBC medical series “St. Elsewhere” (1982-1988). He earned two Emmy nominations for the first and seven Emmy nominations for the latter. Starting out on stage in the late 1960s, the Brooklyn native enjoyed his first break as the writer and producer of the successful TV film “Shirts/Skins” (1973). After “The White Shadow” and “St. Elsewhere,” he experienced a string of failed TV series, including “Tattingers” (1988), “Home Fires” (1992) and “The Road Home” (1994). Prior to his death, Paltrow directed his daughter Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie “Duets” (2000). It was his second and last feature film directorial effort after the disappointing “A Little Sex” (1982), which he also produced.
Paltrow was married to actress Blythe Danner from 1969 until his death on October 3, 2002. They had two children, Academy Award winning actress Gwyneth Kate Paltrow and director Jack Paltrow.
“When Gwynnie was a baby, she and Blythe would harmonize together. I wasn't allowed to sing because Blythe didn't want me to damage the children's ears.” Bruce Paltrow
Five years after his death, in 2007, Paltrow's widow joined forces with The Oral Cancer Foundation to raise funds in his name to fight oral cancer in the United States. The foundation operates primarily in the areas of research, public awareness, early detection, and patient support.
Childhood and Family:
The son of Dorothy and Arnold Paltrow, Bruce William Paltrow was born on November 26, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated with BFA degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1965. He was a college roommate of actor/director Paul Michael Glaser (born March 25, 1943) and a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.
Bruce met actress Blythe Danner (born on February 3, 1943) while pursuing a career in theater in New York City. They married on December 14, 1969. The couple welcomed their first child, daughter Gwyneth Kate Paltrow, on September 27, 1972. Their son, Jacob Danner Paltrow, was born on September 26, 1975.
On October 3, 2002, at age 58, Bruce passed away in Rome, Italy, while on vacation celebrating his daughter's 30th birthday. Paltrow had suffered from oral cancer for several years and his death was the result of complications of pneumonia and cancer.
Bruce Paltrow kicked off his career in theater in the late 1960s. One of his early jobs included producing the off-Broadway play “Someone's Coming Hungry” (1969). In the early 1970s, he worked as a writer for Screen Gems in New York. In 1973, he wrote and produced his first television film, the ABC movie “Shirts/Skins.” Four years later, he made his TV film directorial debut with “You're Gonna Love It Here” (1977), which he also wrote.
Paltrow's first brush with fame arrived when he created the basketball series “The White Shadow,” which ran on CBS from November 27, 1978, to March 16, 1981. Starring Ken Howard as Ken Reeves, a retired pro basketball player who becomes the head coach of a high school team, the drama never achieved high ratings but was a critical hit. It marked the first ensemble drama on prime time TV with a predominantly African American cast. As an executive producer, Paltrow received Emmy nominations in 1980 and 1981 for Outstanding Drama Series. He also directed several episodes of the show, including “The Offer” and “Bonus Baby” (both 1978), “That Old Gang of Mine,” “One of the Boys,” “Albert Hodges” and “Globetrotters,” (all 1979) and “Reunion: Part 1” (1980).
Paltrow produced the TV film “Big City Boys,” a remake of “You're Gonna Love It Here,” in 1978. The same year, he also directed, co-wrote (with Steven Bochco) and produced the TV film “Operating Room.” The drama starred David Spielberg, Oliver Clark and James Sutorius as Dr. Jim Lawrence, Dr. Charles Webner and Dr. Robert Robinson, respectively. The following year, he lent his directing talent to the short lived TV series “Paris” (1979-1980), which was created by Bochco.
In 1982, Paltrow made his feature film directorial debut with “A Little Sex,” an independent comedy staring Tim Matheson and Kate Capshaw and written by Robert De Laurentiis. He also produced the film with Laurentiis. Later that same year, he made a triumphant comeback to the small screen with the acclaimed medical drama “St. Elsewhere” (NBC, 1982 -1988), which was created by Joshua Brand and John Falsey. The show collected a number of awards, including 13 Emmy Awards, a Humanitas Prize and a Peabody Award. Paltrow earned five Emmy nominations in the category of Outstanding Drama Series and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for the episode “The Last One” (1988). He also directed 5 episodes during 1983-1984.
Following the success of “St. Elsewhere,” Paltrow created, wrote, directed episodes and served as executive producer of the NBC series “Tattingers” (1988), starring Stephen Collins and Paltrow's wife Blythe Danner. The show was soon canceled. The program was later renewed into a half hour sitcom called “Nick & Hillary,” but it again met with poor ratings and was axed after two episodes. In 1992, Paltrow returned to television after a break when he co-created and co-executive produced the situation comedy “Home Fires” (NBC). He also directed the pilot. The next year, he directed an episode of NBC's “Homicide: Life on the Streets” called “A Shot in the Dark” and worked with Tom Fontana and John Tinker on the failed pilot “New Year.” He scored another failure with the 1994 CBS series “The Road Home,” which starred Karen Allen, Ed Flanders, Terence Knox, Jessica Bowman and Christopher Masterso. In addition to serving as an executive producer, he also directed the premiere episode.
In 1997, Paltrow returned to filmmaking as the director of “Duets,” which was set to star daughter Gwyneth and her then-fiancé Brad Pitt. However, the project was postponed by Columbia Pictures following the breakup of the couple. Filmed throughout 1998 to 1999, the movie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on September 9, 2000, before receiving a limited theatrical release on September 15, 2000. It received generally negative reviews from critics. “Duets” became Paltrow's first film collaboration with his superstar daughter and his last production before his death in 2002.
Directors Guild of America: DGA Diversity Award, 1997