At an early age, James Sheldon knew he wanted to direct after his father brought him to the opera and he was astounded by the color and sets. He was able to obtain a job as an NBC page and after a few years worked his way up to assistant directing on NBC radio programs. After one of the show’s director had to go out of town, Sheldon was given the chance to direct his first program, where he continued for several years on such programs as We, The People; Crimes of Carelessness; and Martha Deane. At the advent of television, Sheldon was right at the forefront, being hired to direct the television broadcast of We, The People on CBS in June 1948, the first CBS television broadcast in history, a full week before Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theatre premiered.
Sheldon directed in television from the 1940s to the 1980s, witnessing every technical upgrade and format change, as well as the shift from advertising agency-based programs to fully network-controlled productions. In the 1950s, Sheldon, as well as much of the television industry, moved west to Los Angeles where he directed a wide variety of shows: sitcoms, talk shows, Westerns, multi-cam, single-cam, live and scripted. His large resume of television credits include: Studio One, Naked City, Route 66, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, The Love Boat, M*A*S*H, The Donna Reed Show, Cagney and Lacey, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Bing Crosby Show, Batman, The Fugitive, My Three Sons, Petticoat Junction, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Ironside, That Girl, Love, American Style, Sanford and Son, Mr. T and Tina, James at 16, Knots Landing, The Waltons, and The Dukes of Hazzard.
In 2011 Sheldon’s autobiography, Before I Forget: Directing Television 1948-1988, was published and reviewed by the DGA Quarterly in the Summer 2011 issue.
Sheldon passed away in March 2016.