Prolific Director Reza Badiyi Dies at 81
Born in a small town, raised in the conservative Iranian society of the 1930s and 1940s, he went on to make his mark in one of the most competitive industries in the world -- American television.
Those of us who grew up in the late 1960s watching television in Iran certainly remember the many episodes of Mission Impossible made by Reza Seyed Badiyi. He directed 17 of them, more than any other director.
Badiyi, a native of Iran and one of the most prolific directors in the history of American television, died Saturday at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. A spokeswoman for the family told the Los Angeles Times that he had recently been suffering from a number of medical issues. He was 81.
Badiyi was born on April 17, 1930, in Arak, in southwest Tehran. He began his career in Iran as a movie actor. He also made documentaries. One of them, Flood in Khuzestan, changed the course of his career. It depicted the efforts of a diverse group of people, including Badiyi himself, to survive the flood in the southwestern Iranian province.
Badiyi, who was awarded the Golden Ribbon of Art by the Shah, also received international recognition when the Red Cross screened his documentary for an international audience. It prompted the U.S. State Department to invite him to America to study film.
He moved to the United States in 1955 and continued his film studies at Syracuse University in New York. He then moved to Kansas to work for a major industrial film production company. He got his break when he met director Robert Altman. Badiyi said he became his protégé and lifelong friend.
The Iranian American directed over 420 hours of prime-time television -- more than any other director -- four feature films, and more than 60 documentaries. In addition to Mission Impossible, his long list of directing credits includes numerous episodes of Get Smart, The Incredible Hulk, Mannix, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Rockford Files, Hawaii Five-O, The Six Million Dollar Man, Starsky and Hutch, Cagney & Lacey, Falcon Crest, Baywatch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, La Femme Nikita, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and Sliders.
Badiyi was also behind the memorable "wave curl" in the opening credits of Hawaii Five-O. Mary Tyler Moore once said that it was Badiyi who came up with the idea of having her toss her hat into the air at the end of the opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Both are iconic moments in American television. He also directed fashion show sequences for the third season of the popular Doris Day Show. He has been referred to as "the last TV tycoon," as well as "the Godfather of American television."
Like other Iranian Americans living in the United States, he was affected by the 1979 Revolution and the hostage crisis that began on November 4, 1979. He once recounted how difficult it was for him to get work during that period. Yet he persisted and continued to have a very successful career.
Badiyi received the Directors Guild of America Award for the most hours of television directing. He was also honored at the University of California in Los Angeles in April 2010, celebrating his 80th birthday and a 60-year career in the film industry.
He was a member of the Board of Trustees of New York Film Academy.
Badiyi was married to actress and screenwriter Barbara Turner from 1968 to 1985. Their daughter Mina Badie is pursuing an acting career. He has two other children, Alexis Badiyi and Tashi Badiyi. His stepdaughters are Hollywood actress Jennifer Jason Leigh and Carrie Ann Morrow.
His tremendous accomplishments are but one indication of the successes of Iranians in the diaspora, especially the United States. Iran has lost a great son, and the world a great artist.