Then he went on to a second career as one of the greatest TV producers of the '50s and '60s. Look at this line-up of series he brought to the small screen: The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Danny Thomas Show, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, USMC and I Spy.
Leonard died Saturday in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 89.
Born Sheldon Leonard Bershad in New York, he started on the Broadway stage and moved to Hollywood in the 1930s. He once estimated that he played in 140 films in the '30s and '40s, appearing opposite everyone from Bogart and Bacall to Abott and Costello. He moved first into radio (as a regular on the Jack Benny Show), then broke into television as a director on Make Room for Daddy, the start of a partnership with Danny Thomas.
"He had an awesome intellect and his vocabulary was unbelievable," Dick Van Dyke said this weekend. "But he was everyone's grandfather and uncle."
Leonard also had his salty side. On accepting a life membership in the Directors Guild in 1995, he said "Giving a life membership to a guy 88 years old. Big fucking deal!"