William Greaves, a documentary filmmaker and executive producer and co-host of a pioneering public TV show for African-Americans, died Monday at his home in Manhattan, according to the New York Times. He was 87. Greaves worked as a stage and screen actor and dancer in the 1940s and ’50s and appeared in productions staged on Broadway and by the American Negro Theater. He spent most of the ’50s working as a documentary filmmaker in Canada before returning to the U.S. to form William Greaves Productions in 1964. His early documentaries for public TV included a film about the black middle class.
The author of The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey died in January 2010 after living for more than 50 years as a recluse in Cornish, N.H. Shortly after news of his death emerged, Hollywood screenwriter Shane Salerno announced he had been covertly working on Salinger, an independent documentary probing the author’s sheltered existence. Susan Lacy, American Masters executive producer, learned of Salerno’s film while attempting to procure the rights to an unrelated Salinger biography for the program. Salerno — whose screenplay credits include Alien vs. Predator: Requiem and Oliver Stone’s Savages — agreed to produce his film for American Masters after Lacy contacted him. Salerno is a fan of American Masters and says he taught himself the craft of documentary filmmaking by watching the biography series.