David Pressman first entered the entertainment industry as an actor in small New York City theatre productions. In the 1930s Pressman began acting for the famed Neighborhood Playhouse where he studied method acting and eventually taught other actors the craft, all while appearing in major Broadway productions. His career was briefly halted to serve in the Army during World War II, where he saw active duty in Europe and received two Purple Hearts. Upon his return, Pressman began acting at the newly-formed the Actor’s Studio and on their television anthology series, also named the Actor’s Studio. In 1948 Pressman directed an episode of the series and became one of its primary directors, winning a Peabody Award for his work.
Pressman went on to helm episodes of Nash Airflyte Theatre and Treasury Men in Action before his career was derailed when his name appeared on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “blacklist” of supposed communists. Pressman was, career-wise, ostracized from Hollywood, but secretly helped plan and direct episodes of the anthology series Philip Morris Playhouse. While not allowed to work on most, if not all, television and film sets, Pressman returned to theatre during his time on the blacklist, founding the acting department at Boston University, directing plays on Broadway such as The Disenchanted which won several Tony Awards, and taking control of the Neighborhood Playhouse where he got his start.
As the wave of McCarthyism dissipated, Pressman was able to return to television, directing episodes of the series Another World, The Defenders, The Doctors and the Nurses, Coronet Blue, N.Y.P.D., and the movies for television This Town Will Never Be the Same (1969), The Skirts of Happy Chance (1969), and Neither Are We Enemies (1970). In 1970, Pressman began directing the daytime serial One Life to Live, at which he stayed for 28 years as the primary series director. After his retirement in 1998, Pressman went back to acting, appearing in a recurring role on the show for several years.
For his directorial efforts Pressman was nominated for a Primetime Emmy award in 1973 for an episode of One Life to Live. He was also nominated for 10 Daytime Emmys, winning three times for One Life to Live in 1976, 1983 and 1984. Pressman served on the DGA’s Eastern Directors Council from 1988-2006.