Born in Tokyo and raised in Japan, the son of missionaries. He joined the Navy before moving into television with March of Time and then joining CBS. He won directing Emmys for his work on Twelve Angry Men (1954), The Caine Mutiny (1955) and in 1957 for a documentary.
His debut film was praised and it already showed his versatility and ability to bring a certain quality to mediocre projects. He directed the influential hit Planet of the Apes, but Rod Serling as script-writer was the chief injector of energy. His next film was another hit, directing George C. Scott in Patton. After his commercial success had secured his position he moved onto a series of long and slow 'quality' films. But after The Boys from Brazil his remaining pictures hint of a director in search of any job.