Arthur Zegart was an exceptional director of documentary films for television, many of which were distributed to classrooms in 16mm film versions. Very little is known today about his life or work. If you have additional information or can supply a photograph, please contact us.
Zegart was involved in the production of an estimated 125 documentaries. He often had multiple roles within a film, more than occasionally producing, directing, and writing a given title. He also served as an on-screen interviewer, as was the case with Southeast Asia: The Other War (1965), which may have been the first television documentary critical of the U.S. perspective and involvement in the Vietnam war.
He was born in Chicago in 1917 and attended the University of Chicago. He led an Air Force photography unit in World War II and was chief of the United Nations film division after the war. Unlike many other successful documentarists of his era, he wasn’t beholden to one network, directing documentaries for ABC, CBS, NBC, and NET, among other organizations.
Zegart was an innovator. About him, noted documentarist Robert Drew, as cited in P.J. O’Connell’s book Robert Drew and the Development of Cinema Verite in America, says:
The New York Times recorded Arthur Zegart’s obituary on February 7, 1989, stating that he “committed suicide Thursday by jumping off the Tappan Zee Bridge. Mr. Zegart, who had suffered for several years from a blood disease, was 72 years old…”
It’s not easy to find Arthur Zegart’s films today. They remain hidden in the network collections and in archives such as ours here, at the Academic Film Archive of North America. They are timeless works of the cinematic art form, as exciting and important today as they were decades ago, when they were originally filmed and distributed. His work is deserving of a new look, and it is hoped that the networks, which own the copyright to his films, will eventually be forthcoming in re-releasing them.
Zegart’s filmography is incomplete. Please contact us to contribute the titles of any Zegart films that do not appear on this list.
Home of the Homeless (1950, United Nations Film Board) d
Hard Core (1951, Viking Films) d
Penology Research (1954, CBS The Search) d/w
San Quentin Prison (1954, CBS)
Maine Lobsterman (1955, CBS Omnibus) d/w
Wassaic Story (1956, CBS)
CBS “Conquest’ series (1957-1960) This series of thirty one-hour documentaries was produced in association with the National Academy of Sciences. Each program was directed either by Norton Bloom or Arthur Zegart. We hope to have Zegart’s titles listed in the future. If you can help, contact us.
Worlds of Dr. Vishniac, The (1959, Educational Testing Service) p/d
Man in the Middle: The State Legislator (1961, NBC White Paper) d
Railroads: End of the Line (1961, NBC White Paper) d/w
Battle of Newburgh, The (1962, NBC White Paper) d/w
Business of Gambling, The (1963) p/d/w
San Francisco Detective (1963, DuPont Show of the Week) d/w
Southeast Asia: The Other War (1965, NET Changing World) p/d/w
Germany and Its Shadow (1967, NET Intertel) p/d/w
Who Speaks for Man? (1969, NET Journal) d/w (nominated for Emmy)
Venezuela (1970? Unsure of actual title or date, possibly made for CBS)
Angels of Serra Center, The (1974?, ABC) d
Bricha, Flight to Security (1974?, ABC) d
Kibbutz Langdon (1974, ABC) d
To Fly! (1976, National Air and Space Museum) w