April 29, 2008

Alex Grasshoff '53

Alumnus Passes Away

Alex Grasshoff, who earned his bachelor's in cinema from USC in 1953 and then went on to a decades-long career directing and producing in film and television, passed away April 5 at age 79. Grasshoff died from complications arising from bypass surgery on a leg, according to his wife Madilyn Clark Grasshoff.

After receiving his degree, Grasshoff pursued his profession by starting in the Paramount mailroom, and worked his way up to assistant editor.

Grasshoff and fellow producer Robert Cohn won as best feature documentary at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1969 for their film, Young Americans. The production, which Grasshoff wrote and directed, depicted the adventures of a singing group treking across the country by bus. Unfortunately, the academy took the award back on a technicality after learning the project had been test screened at a small theater in 1967, thus disqualifying it for consideration as a 1968 film.

Grasshoff received his first Academy Award nomination under the best feature documentary category working with David L. Wolper Productions in 1966 for The Really Big Family, and again, in 1973 for a documentary co-produced by Wolper and the National Geographic Society entitled, Journey to the Outer Limits. While Journey did not land the Oscar, it did subsequently win an Emmy for “Documentary Program Achievement.” In 1981, Grasshoff won both an Emmy and a Peabody for The Wave, as the outstanding children’s program.

Among the feature films that Grasshoff directed were The Jailbreakers, The Last Dinosaur and Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, he did extensive work in episodic television, directing such series as Toma, The Rookies, The Rockford Files, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, CHiPs, and segments for the popular ABC Afterschool Specials.