Boris Sagal

Boris Sagal (October 18, 1923 – May 22, 1981) was a Ukrainian-American television and film director.[1]

Boris Sagal
Born(1923-10-18)October 18, 1923
DiedMay 22, 1981(1981-05-22) (aged 57)
Cause of deathHelicopter accident
Years active19551981
Sara Zwilling
(m. 1952; died 1975)

Marge Champion
(m. 1977; his death 1981)
Children5, including Katey, Jean and Liz, and Joey

Early life and career

Born in Yekaterinoslav, Ukrainian SSR (now known as Dnipro, Ukraine) to a Jewish family, Sagal immigrated to the United States. Sagal's TV credits include directing episodes of The Twilight Zone, T.H.E. Cat, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Night Gallery, Columbo: Candidate for Crime, Peter Gunn, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. He also directed the 1972 television adaptation of Percy MacKaye's play The Scarecrow, for PBS. He was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards for his direction of the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and, posthumously, Masada.

Sagal directed the 1971 cult classic science fiction film The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston in the lead role, and The Dream Makers.

There is a directing fellowship in his name at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.

Shortly before his death, Sagal's miniseries Masada aired on ABC.[2]

Personal life

Sagal was Jewish.[3] He is the father of Katey, Joey, David, Jean and Liz with his first wife, Sara Zwilling, who died in 1975. Norman Lear, who was a friend of Boris and was also made godfather to Katey, introduced Boris and Sara when Sara was his script supervisor while he wrote for The Martin and Lewis Show, as both Katey and Norman acknowledged in 2016.[4] His second wife was Marge Champion, to whom he was married from January 1, 1977, until his death.


Sagal was killed in an accident during production of the miniseries World War III, when he was partially decapitated after walking into the tail rotor blades of a helicopter in the parking lot of the Timberline Lodge in Oregon.[5] An investigation revealed that he turned the wrong way when exiting the helicopter. He died five hours later in a Portland hospital.[6]

He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills).[7]

The "Combat Curse"

Eerily, Sagal's directorial work includes the pilot episode of the popular WW2 series Combat!, which starred Vic Morrow. Morrow himself was fatally struck by a helicopter's rotor blade roughly a year after Sagal's death, and also while shooting a film on location (in Morrow's case, it was The Twilight Zone Movie).

See also


  1. Kennedy, Shawn G. (May 24, 1981). "Boris Sagal, 58, Movie Director, Dies After A Helicopter Accident". The New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2012.
  2. "BORIS SAGAL, 58, MOVIE DIRECTOR, DIES AFTER A HELICOPTER ACCIDENT". The New York Times. 24 May 1981. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  3. "Katey Sagal Trivia". Hollywood Up Close. 2008. Archived from the original on September 6, 2010.
  4. "Conversation with ATX Awardee Norman Lear". ATX Television Festival. 2016.
  6. Cathcart, Rebecca (November 7, 2008). "Out From Under All That Big Hair". The New York Times.
  7. Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 41315). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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