Joshua Logan, who produced and directed "South Pacific" and "Mr. Roberts" during one of the most versatile careers in the history of the Broadway theater, died at his home in Manhattan after a long illness. He was 79.
Logan died at 3 p.m. Tuesday from supranuclear palsy, a debilitating disease from which he suffered for six years, said Ethel Weinstein, his personal secretary.In addition to directing and producing the stage version of Rogers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," Logan co-wrote the musical and in 1950 won the Pulitzer Prize for his work on the long-running show, which was based on a book by James Michener.
Logan also was co-author, director and producer of "Mr. Roberts" and a spin-off play based on a character in that drama, "Ensign Pulver," as well as "Wish You Were Here," and "Fanny."
"The whole theater is alive and vibrating when Josh is at work," said lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II at the peak of Logan's career.
Logan was born in Texarkana, Texas, on Oct. 5, 1908. A handsome 6-footer, he attended Culver Military Academy and Princeton University. He was one of the founders of the University Players on Cape Cod, acting with James Stewart, Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullivan.
"Josh has meant so much to me, especially as an actor, because Josh Logan is reponsible absolutely for getting me into the acting profession," Stewart said. "When I was at Princeton on graduation day he asked me if I wanted to come up to an outfit called the University Players."
At the end of the summer, Stewart said he was planning to return to Princeton for graduate studies in architecture, but was urged by Logan, who had graduated the year before, to come to New York and pursue acting.
"It was then that I decided to try it," Stewart said. "Josh Logan has meant a tremendous amount to me in my life. He gave me encouragement all along the line."
For his work with the University Players, Logan won a scholarship to study with Konstantin Stanislavski at the Moscow Art Theater.
"Meeting Stanislavski was the birth of me as a director," Logan recalled years later. "I never thought of directing until I met him. He had such strength and gentleness, such humor. I wanted to be as much like him as possible."
Logan was involved, behind the scenes, in numerous Broadway hits, among them "On Borrowed Time," "I Married An Angel," "Knickerbocker Holiday," "Stars in Your Eyes," "Charlie's Aunt," "By Jupiter," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Picnic," "Wish You Were Here," "Blue Denim," "World of Suzie Wong" and "Mr. President."
Logan ventured into Hollywood to direct "Bus Stop," "Picnic," "South Pacific," "Sayonara," "Fanny" and "Camelot." But he never became a Hollywood denizen and never bought a home there. As he once said, "New York is my home. I can't imagine just being in Hollywood and not working."
Summing up his career, he said, "I am not a puppeteer, I am simply an editor, a sort of audience, and a friend, a sort of encourager that nobody should be scared of or angry at."