John D. Hess, a prolific television writer, died on April 15 of lung cancer. He was 85.
Hess attended the University of Chicago and Dartmouth University. He spent a year at Yale Drama School before landing a job as a writer for WGN radio in Chicago. During World War II, Hess served in the Army as a tank officer. He later chronicled his experiences in the book, “Move Out, Verify — The Combat Story of the 743rd Tank Battalion.”
After the war, Hess returned to writing for WGN. He segued to scriptwriting in the 1950s, and helped to create “Love of Life,” one of the earliest TV soap operas. The CBS daytime drama aired until 1980.
Over the next three decades, Hess wrote episodes of “General Hospital,” “M*A*S*H,” “Alice,” “One Day at a Time” and “The Rockford Files.” He based the TV comedy, “The Wicked Scheme of Jebel Deeks,” on an article he wrote for Esquire; it starred Alec Guinness in his American TV debut.
Hess was also an accomplished playwright. His play, “The Grey-Eyed People,” opened on Broadway in 1952, but closed after five shows. In 1954, he was named the playwright in residence at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pa. The theatre produced several of his plays, including “The Facts of Life,” “The Better Mousetrap” and “A Perfect Frenzy.”