Frances Buss Buch, 92

Early TV director Frances Buss Buch dies at 92

Monday, January 25, 2010

Frances Buss Buch, 92, television's first female director, who directed the first television talk show and the first color program, died Jan. 19 at a rest home near Hendersonville, N.C. No cause of death was reported.

"Frannie Buss was a pioneer in broadcast television and a fine person," 91-year-old journalist Mike Wallace told the Associated Press.

She directed "Mike and Buff," starring Wallace and his then-wife, Buff Cobb, from 1951 to 1953. He praised Buch's professionalism in the male-dominated days of early television. "It was macho, but she was very capable, knew what she was about and was highly regarded by the people who worked with her."

While taking acting classes, performing off-Broadway and modeling in New York, Mrs. Buch joined CBS for a temporary job as a receptionist in July 1941 and was soon asked to be in front of the camera for various black-and-white programs, her family said.

Mrs. Buch joined CBS Television -- the fledgling video arm of the Columbia Broadcasting System -- just two weeks after the Federal Communications Commission allowed commercial TV broadcasts.

"I guess I had seen TV at the World's Fair. But I had no idea this existed in New York. CBS was a radio network," Mrs. Buch told the Asheville Citizen-Times in 2008. "It was fascinating. Nobody knew what was going to happen with this new medium." She appeared on TV's first game show, "The CBS Television Quiz," as a scorekeeper.

Her credits also include TV news coverage of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

When networks had to suspend live TV broadcasting in 1942, Mrs. Buch got a job directing and producing U.S. Navy training films in Florida, where she met her husband, Bill Buch. The two married in 1949, the family said, and he died in 1998. Survivors include a sister.

She rejoined CBS in 1944, and by 1945, CBS promoted her to be TV's first female director.

"Everything we did was live," she said in 2008. "If you did something stupid, it was out there for everyone to see. I suppose I was nervous until I discovered I could do it."

Mrs. Buch was soon directing and producing a variety of shows, from Brooklyn Dodgers games to musicals to crime dramas, according to the Paley Center for Media, which inducted her into the "She Made It" Class of 2007.

The group credits her for helping establish programming templates and much of "television's unique visual language." Mrs. Buch directed the first color TV program, "Premiere," in 1951 after CBS won government approval for its color system.

She resigned in 1954 to be a full-time homemaker, the family said.

"I was a little tired of it," she said in 2008. "I had an entirely different life. But I had no regrets."

-- Associated Press

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