James W. Gavin, ace pilot for TV and movies

James W. Gavin pilots a helicopter with Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

James W. Gavin pilots a helicopter with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. on board.

One in a series about unsung figures of television.

James W. Gavin over a long career in television and movies mostly went unnoticed.

The pilot/second unit director/bit part player was a top helicopter pilot. His services were in demand for various TV serious as well as films such as Vanishing Point and The Towering Inferno.

Gavin got a bit of recognition in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever.

Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz told the anecdote of how Gavin had the presence of mind to get the cameras rolling when explosions were set off for what was supposed to be a rehearsal for the oil-rig sequence.

According to Mankiewicz, some of that footage ended up in the final version of Diamonds.

On occasion, Gavin got to be an actor. Not surprisingly, he played pilots, presumably because it was cheaper to film him reciting lines while he was flying. In some cases, he was billed as “Gavin James,” rather than by his real name.

Gavin was one of the go-to pilots for QM Productions, flying helicopters for the company’s various shows, including The FBI.

Gavin died in 2005 at the age of 70.

Richard Sarafian, director of TV spy shows, dies at 83

Richard C. Sarafian

Richard C. Sarafian

Richard C. Sarafian, who directed episodes of 1960s spy television shows, died Sept. 18, according to AN OBITUARY POSTED BY VARIETY.

Sarafian directed the 1965 pilot for The Wild, Wild West, which combined spies with the Wild West. Star Robert Conrad, in a commentary track for the first-season DVD set, said that pilot, The Night of the Inferno, was expensive by mid-1960s standards. The Sarafian-directed episode sold the series and the director returned for one more first-season installment.

Sarafian also helmed EIGHT EPISODES of the 1965-68 I Spy, starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, which was probably took the darkest take among ’60s spy shows. His final work on the series was the 1968 episode Home to Judgment, which had a plot SIMILAR TO THE 2012 007 MOVIE SKYFALL.

In the 1970s, Sarafian got the chance to direct some feature films, including Vanishing Point and THE NEXT MAN, in which Sean Connery played an Arab diplomat who’s the target of assassination plots.

To read the Variety obituary, CLICK HERE. To see a list of Sarafian’s directing credits on IMDB.com, CLICK HERE.