Motion Picture, Television and Broadway Director, Producer. Born to parents of Russian-Jewish descent, his father was a watch maker, his mother a nurse; they divorced when he was a young child. While living with his father, he developed an interest in the theater as a high school student; he formed a dramatic group, when he was stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, during his service in the US Army. After his discharge, with the usage of the G.I. Bill, Penn studied at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and would continue his education abroad, at the universities of Perugia and Florence (Italy). Upon returning home, he attended the Actors Studio in New York, and later in Los Angeles, where he studied with Michael Chekhov. In 1951, Penn attained his first job in television, serving as floor manager. A few years later, he was writing plays, and directing live TV episodes of the programs "The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse" and "Playhouse 90." The mid-1950s would mark a significant turning point in Penn's career, as he directed his first Broadway play the short-lived "The Lovers" (1956), followed by the successful "Two for the Seesaw" (1958 to 1959), for which he earned a Tony Award nomination; he made his film debut with "The Left-Handed Gun" (1958). He won a Tony Award for "The Miracle Worker" (1960), and directed the 1962 film adaptation, earning him an Academy Award nomination. He received a Tony Award nomination for "All the Way Home" (1961), and would direct several more notable plays, including "Toys in the Attic" (1960 to 1961), "Golden Boy" (1964 to 1966), "Wait Until Dark" (1966) and "Golda" (1977 to 1978). Penn earned the reputation as a respected director of versatility, among his other big screen credits are "Mickey One" (1965), "The Chase" (1966), "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967, receiving an Oscar nomination), "Alice's Restaurant" (1968, earning an Academy Award nomination), "Little Big Man" (1970), "Night Moves" (1975), "The Missouri Breaks" (1976), "Target" (1985), "Dead of Winter" (1987) and "Penn & Teller Get Killed" (1989). He died from congestive heart failure.
Bio by: C.S.