He was born in Hollywood on May 1, 1919 in the heart of the
burgeoning film community. His mother was the noted writer and actress Bess Meredyth
and his father the actor and director Wilfred Lucas. John got a taste for location
shooting early in his career, when at 7 months of age he went with his parents
to Australia to film the first full length film made down under, The Man From
Kangaroo written by his mother, and directed by and co-starring his father.
When the family returned to Hollywood, his parents worked
both individually and together, but when Bess was sent by Louis B. Mayer to Rome
to try to save the floundering production of Ben Hur, John was left
with his father and his nursemaid. Bess's long stay in Rome saved the picture,
but did not bode well for the marriage. Although they divorced when John was very
young, his parents’ parting was amicable. He lived with his mother, but
he saw his father often when shooting schedules permitted.
When John was ten his mother re-married, to a Hungarian director
newly imported from Europe by Warner Brothers named Michael Curtiz. At the time,
John was more concerned with avoiding an education at a seemingly endless string
of military schools than dealing with a new stepfather. Despite his best efforts,
John learned enough to know the value of books, and became an avid reader, often
reading a book a day even when working on a film.
After brief appearances at UCLA, the Pasadena Playhouse School,
and, during World War II, the US Army, John began professional life as a script
clerk at Warner Brothers, often working on Mike Curtiz’s films. It was not
until he began writing and directing, however, that John found a purpose in his
work. He also found a young Australian actress, another import at Warners. She
was born Joan MacGillicuddy, but Jack Warner re-christened her Joan Winfield,
and put her under contract to the studio.
John was also impressed. He and Joan married in 1951 and
had three children, Elizabeth, Victoria and Michael. John continued writing and
directing, now concentrating on the growing television industry in such groundbreaking
series as Medic, The Loretta Young Show” and Disney’s
Zorro. In 1960, following in his parents’ footsteps, he took
his family to Sydney to make the first international TV series shot in Australia,
Whiplash, starring Peter Graves.
Returning to Hollywood, John wrote, directed and produced
such classic television series as Ben Casey, The Fugitive,
Mannix and the original, cult-creating Star Trek. For five
years he spent several months a year on location in Toronto on the syndicated
series Simon Locke (later called Police Surgeon), and
following that continued his love of location work with a round-the-world documentary
on world hunger.
In 1978 Joan died after a long battle with cancer. In 1980
John met businesswoman Patricia Hightower at a party, and several months later
they married. They moved to the beach, where John wrote on series such as
Six Million Dollar Man and Planet of the Apes, and where he
could indulge his lifelong love of sailing. He also wrote and directed Yeshua,
a film shot in Israel, so he was able to introduce Pat to life on location.
For years his children had been begging him to write
down the stories of family history that had been told and retold over riotous
family dinners, and he finally began work on this book in 2000. Wonderfully, the
collaborating with his children on these stories over the next two years brought
them all even closer together. The book finished, and surrounded by his family,
John died on October 19, 2002.