Irvin "Shorty" Yeaworth, 78, who died July 19 in a single-car accident in Jordan, directed the seminal science-fiction film "The Blob," became a tour guide in the Holy Land and was a master of evangelical media presentations.
In his travels, he became acquainted with the Rev. Billy Graham and Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones guitarist who once underwent treatment in Mr. Yeaworth's suburban Philadelphia home for heroin use.
The son of a Presbyterian minister, Mr. Yeaworth entered the entertainment industry hoping to make religiously themed movies. To earn a living, he resorted to teen-exploitation films, explaining, "We knew we shouldn't make our first theatrical film on a subject that was precious to us, because we weren't that good."
His second feature, "The Blob" (1958), was both laughable and legendary. It gave Steve McQueen -- billed less ruggedly as Steven McQueen -- his first starring role.
As a small-town, teenage hero, McQueen warns his doubting neighbors about an extraterrestrial red jelly that consumes all in its path. The strawberry-colored mass, made from a clump of silicone rubber, was a symbol of creeping Communism.
If the idea is now seen as ludicrous or heavy-handed, there is this to admire: a theme song written by the little-known team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David ("Beware of the Blob!") and the presence of McQueen.
Mr. Yeaworth had a troubled relationship with the actor, who became irritated at the director's insistence on redubbing some dialogue. Mr. Yeaworth's wife and frequent collaborator, Jean, said the two later made amends when the actor sent a postcard from Las Vegas to the effect that he appreciated the accent on excellence.
Paramount studios picked up the film for mass distribution, and it was one of the year's biggest hits. "The Blob" spurred sequels and an annual BlobFest in Phoenixville, Pa., where some of the original shooting was done. It also was an early inspiration for Robert Zemeckis and other directors.
Few other ventures brought Mr. Yeaworth such widespread renown. He viewed the film's success with some trepidation, though, saying, "There's no question that 'The Blob' has sort of like dogged my heels -- it just won't die, somehow."
Irvin Shortess Yeaworth Jr. was born in Berlin, where his father was studying, and raised in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. He sang on the radio as a young man and, much to his parents' dismay, he began working as a radio and television producer after graduating from Franklin & Marshall College in 1947.
Self-taught as a filmmaker, he formed Good News Productions to make religious and educational films from a studio he concocted in Chester Springs, Pa. He and a group of impoverished writers and designers moved onto the 150-acre property. They made films for missionary groups.
To boost their fortunes, they turned to the commercial market. The first effort was "The Flaming Teen-Age" (1956), about a young man who learns the dangers of liquor and other stimulants -- human and narcotic.
Their next film, originally called "The Molten Meteor," came to them through a well-connected Philadelphia film distributor named Jack Harris. Mr. Yeaworth agreed to it because of the experience of working with 35 millimeter film and unions. It would have a professional cast, including McQueen. The title changed to "The Blob."
He continued making feature films of varying quality. Two of his most personal were: "Way Out" (1967), about drug addicts in the Bronx who find religion, and "The Gospel Blimp" (1967), showing people in a balloon who, in their fervor, literally bang people over their head with religious material. He wanted to convey the idea that religious conversion was more effective on a human level.
In all, he made more than 400 educational, entertainment and motivational films. He played a prominent role in international broadcasting of the Graham crusades and creating presentations for gospel-centric exhibitions at World Fairs.
He took in the troubled Richards at the request of a missionary friend involved with an experimental drug treatment regimen. Richards "definitely didn't like to hear the Christian message," Mr. Yeaworth told an interviewer, "but he had no choice in our home."
A trek to Israel in the mid-1970s, to direct a Pat Boone Christmas special, led to his career as a tour guide. Viewing the trips as a form of conflict resolution, he took hundreds of American Christians to Israel and Jordan; he considered visiting only Israel too limiting.
Mr. Yeaworth, a resident of Malvern, Pa., near Philadelphia, was in Jordan at his death working on a project in Aqaba. Scheduled to open next month, the enterprise is a mix of restaurants and shops in Aqaba's port that also includes a walk-through "time tunnel" of the country.
Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Jean Bruce Yeaworth of Malvern; five children; a brother; two sisters; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.