Peter Baldwin, dead at 86, Winnetka native won Emmy for ‘Wonder Years’

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Peter Baldwin started his career as a chiseled stage and screen actor and segued into directing more than 400 episodes of classic TV beginning in the 1960s. | Facebook

You might not know Peter Baldwin, but chances are that you’ve seen his TV shows.

Mr. Baldwin, a Winnetka native who attended New Trier High School, started out as a chiseled stage and film actor and, beginning in the 1960s, directed more than 400 episodes of popular TV shows. In 1989, he won an Emmy for his work on “The Wonder Years.”

Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia on one of the shows he directed, “The Brady Bunch,” tweeted he was “one of my all time favs” after his Nov. 19 death at 86 at his home in Pebble Beach, California.

He remained a lifelong Cubs fan. When the team won the World Series in 2016, he said, “I waited 85 years for this moment.”

He mentioned the team in his Emmy acceptance speech for the “Our Miss White” episode of “The Wonder Years.” Singling out star and fellow North Shore native Fred Savage, Mr. Baldwin said, “He’s a talented, talented guy, a good guy and a great Cub fan, right? This is the year, I hope.”

Peter Baldwin accepts his Emmy in 1989 for directing an episode of “The Wonder Years.”

Peter Baldwin accepts his Emmy in 1989 for directing an episode of “The Wonder Years.”

Young Peter sang in the choir of Christ Church Winnetka and excelled in sports at New Trier, Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper once wrote.

Mr. Baldwin, who studied economics at Stanford University, was spotted by a talent scout in 1951 in a community theater production in Palo Alto, California, and signed by Paramount Pictures. Soon, he was appearing in prestige films like 1953’s “Stalag 17,” featuring William Holden.

“I was out of it almost as soon as I was in it,” Mr. Baldwin once told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Another actor and I had the opening scene as American prisoners trying to escape the German prison camp. We were mowed down by machine guns just as we reached the wire.”

He played a courtier in the 1956 epic “The Ten Commandments,” a bandit in the 1957 Henry Fonda Western “The Tin Star” and a cub reporter in the 1958 Clark Gable-Doris Day vehicle “Teacher’s Pet.’’ He also appeared in Roberto Rossellini’s “Escape By Night” in 1960.

There also were some campy films, like 1958’s “I Married a Monster from Outer Space.”

Hopper reported he asked to be released from his Paramount contract, after which he toured with Julie Harris in a stage production of “The Warm Peninsula.”

In movies and on TV, “I’ve rarely gotten the girls,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1959. “And I’ve been killed nine times.”

In 1964, producer Sheldon Leonard hired him to direct “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” according to David Armanasco, a friend.

He then directed episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Gomer Pyle: USMC.”

Mr. Baldwin gained valuable experience in the 1960s as an assistant to Italy’s Vittorio De Sica on “Woman Times Seven” and “A Place for Lovers,” featuring Faye Dunaway and Marcello Mastroianni. In 1965, he married Emy de Sica, the director’s daughter.

De Sica told him there were only two rules for directing: “Have something to say,” Mr. Baldwin recalled in an interview with his friend Mark D. Baer, “and say it.”

In the 1970s, he was behind the camera on “The Partridge Family,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Sanford and Son,” “Benson,” “Love, American Style,” “Love Boat,” “Happy Days,” “Chico and the Man” and “The Bob Newhart Show.”

His wit and warmth endeared him to actors and crew members. He took an interest in their lives and asked questions about things they cared about. “I called him the last charming man,” Baer said.

Always dressed elegantly, “He was the king of cashmere,” Baer said.

In the 1980s, he directed episodes of “Alf,” “Head of the Class,” “Family Ties,’’ “Webster,” “My Sister Sam” and “Full House.” In the 1990s, he directed “Cybill,” “Blossom,” “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” “Murphy Brown” and “Dream On.”He last directed in 2002 on “Even Stevens.”

Peter Baldwin (from left), his wife Terry and son Drew. | Facebook

Peter Baldwin (from left), his wife Terry and son Drew. | Facebook

In retirement, Mr. Baldwin, who served in the U.S. Navy on an aircraft carrier, was a commodore and secretary of the Stillwater Yacht Club in Pebble Beach and a board member of Pacific Repertory Theatre in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Armanasco said.

Even as his health failed, his family arranged to take him to Sun Valley, Idaho, in August to see the solar eclipse, Baer said.

His first marriage to New Trier schoolmate Lois Cederberg and his marriage to de Sica both ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife Terry, daughters Amy Anderson and Eleonora Baldwin, son Drew, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.

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