Joseph Hardy Dies: Tony-Winning Broadway Director, Exec Producer Of ‘Ryan’s Hope’ Was 95

Joseph Hardy Dies: Tony-Winning Broadway Director, Exec Producer Of ‘Ryan’s Hope’ Was 95

Joseph Hardy, the stage director who introduced the enduring charmer You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, won a Tony Award for 1970’s Child’s Play and, as an executive producer in daytime drama, attempted to rescue the fading serial Ryan’s Hope with some of the most controversial changes in soap history, has died. He was 95.

His June 6 death was confirmed by New York’s Primary Stages Off Broadway theater company. A resident since 2020 at the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, NJ, his passing last month was not widely reported.

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Born March 8, 1929, in Carlsbad, NM, Hardy graduated from the Yale School of Drama and began his show business career working as a script editor for New York-based soap operas. He was soon making his way into the Off Broadway world, working extensively in small theaters before making his early mark with the original 1967 production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown at Theater 80 St. Marks in Manhattan’s East Village.

The musical, with music and lyrics by Clark Gesner based on the wildly popular Peanuts characters crated by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, was a simply-staged production that would go on to become a staple of amateur and school theater seasons. The show featured a book by John Gordon — a pseudonym later revealed to cover Gessner, production staff and the original cast that included Bob Balaban, Gary Burghoff, among others.

By the time the Peanuts musical transferred to Broadway in 1971, Hardy already was there, having directed several Broadway productions including Play It Again, Sam, the 1969 Woody Allen comedy that first teamed Allen with his greatest muse, Diane Keaton. The actress was nominated for a Tony for her performance in the comedy.

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In 1970, Hardy won the Tony Award for his direction of Child’s Play, Charles Marasco’s Tony-nominated dark mystery drama set in an exclusive boys boarding school. The production also won Tonys for actors Fritz Weaver and Ken Howard, as well as for sets and lighting.

Hardy’s other Broadway credits include Johnny No-Trump (1967); Bob and Ray – The Two and Only (1970); Children! Children! (1972); Gigi (1973); The Night of the Iguana (1976); and, in 1978, Diversions and Delights, a one-man show starring Vincent Price as Oscar Wilde. Hardy’s final Broadway credit was 1979’s Romantic Comedy starring Anthony Perkins and, in her Broadway debut, Mia Farrow.

His stage career also included a stint as Associate Artist at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, and he was a frequent director at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

Hardy also had a busy TV career: He directed, among other projects, Lily Tomlin’s first TV special in 1973; a 1974 TV-movie adaptation of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; and, that same year, the TV film Great Expectations starring Michael York and Sarah Miles. He directed and executive produced the headline making 1970s teen drama James at 15 (later retitled James at 16).

Returning to his roots in daytime soaps, Hardy was hired in 1983 as an executive producer of ABC’s Ryan’s Hope, a once-popular serial that had experienced dwindling viewership since its mid-1970s heyday. Hardy became part of a new producing team that overhauled the serial by firing some of its most popular cast members and shifting the focus from its longtime setting of the Ryan family bar to the goings-on at a nearby deli. The ratings crashed, many ABC affiliates dropped the show, and within a few years the network replaced Hardy’s crew and rehired original producer Claire Labine.

Hardy’s Ryan’s Hope era became something of a cautionary tale for the daytime drama industry, as networks and producers would tread carefully ever after about making major shifts away from a serial’s founding focus.

Hardy, however, landed on his feet, soon hired as executive producer of ABC’s Loving and, from 1989-91, the hugely popular General Hospital.

After leaving General Hospital, Hardy spent much of the 1990s living and working in France. He returned to New York City later in the decade and continued directing at the Old Globe Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Charlotte Rep. In 2008, he directed his old friend Lynn Redgrave in Grace for MCC Theater Off Broadway, and he reteamed with the star the following year for her acclaimed solo show Nightingale for New York City Center.

He is survived by sister Caroline Rackley of New Mexico. He requested that no service or memorial be held.

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