Louis Hazam, 72, an early and frequently honored writer and producer of television documentaries who was particularly noted for his work on medical and cultural themes, died of heart and kidney ailments Sept. 6 at Holy Cross Hospital.
Mr. Hazam, who lived in Silver Spring, spent his broadcasting career at the National Broadcasting Co. He began with NBC in the late 1940s and retired in 1972. He was the producer of NBC's coverage of national political conventions in 1952, 1956 and 1960, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and other "hard" news stories.
But he was best known for his documentaries on timeless themes and he was among the first to produce them successfully for prime-time audiences.
Among the most memorable were "Way of the Cross," which first appeared in 1960 and which has been shown several times since; "Vincent Van Gogh: A Self-Portrait," (1962) an account of the artist's life based on his letters, which won Peabody and Emmy awards; "Greece: The Golden Age," (1963) for which Mr. Hazam received a decoration from King Constantine; "John F. Kennedy Remembered" (1964); "The Capitol: Chronicle of Freedom" (1965); "Michelangelo: The Last Giant," a two-part series that was shown in 1966, and "Venice Be Damned," which was broadcast in 1972 and received an Emmy.
Mr. Hazam also wrote and produced NBC's acclaimed "March of Medicine" and "Breakthrough" series. In 1956, "March of Medicine" became the first program to win the Albert Lasker Medical Journalism Award. Mr. Hazam's "firsts" in the medical field included a live telecast of a surgical operation and the birth of a child.
For his films Mr. Hazam traveled widely. As a writer, he was restrained. Critics credited much of the force of his work to the fact that he did not try to explain what viewers could see for themselves.
In Making "The River Nile" (1962), 84 days were spent filming the river from its source in the Mountains of the Moon in Central Africa to its mouth at the Mediterranean. Critic Lawrence Laurent of The Washington Post called the program "superb" and said:
"There was little that writer Hazam could add to the splendid film footage and he didn't try. Instead, he had narrator James Mason describe the efforts to discover the greatest single source of this river. He told of some who tried: Ptolemy (in 150 A.D.), an unidentified German explorer . . . and of English explorers John Hanning Speke and Richard Francis Burton and the famed Stanley . . . . There was even a 'paeon . . . to the useful papyrus, on which 'immortality was first recorded.' "
Mr. Hazam was born in Norwich, Conn. He graduated from Columbia University in 1933 and went to work for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. About 1936, he moved to Washington as a radio writer for the Interior Department. He joined NBC in New York about 1945 and moved to Washington in the late 1940s.
In more recent years, he devoted himself to painting in oils. His subjects were still lifes and landscapes and he exhibited locally.
His wife, the former Ruby Gene Hymer, died in 1981.
Survivors include two children, Nancy of Silver Spring, and Chad of Boiling Springs, W.Va.; a brother, William of Boston, Mass.; a sister, Ann Hazam Hutchinson of Norwich, and three grandchildren.