Joseph Sargent, 89, a prolific director whose best-known film was

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

and whose dozens of TV movies included explorations of sensitive racial topics, died Monday at his Malibu home.

Mr. Sargent's death was caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his wife, Carolyn Nelson Sargent, said.

Mr. Sargent made about 70 films, mostly for television. Some of his projects, like the 1997 HBO film Miss Evers' Boys, a story about the infamous government study of black syphilis patients in Tuskegee, Ala., had strong messages that sometimes forced Mr. Sargent to tamp down his own strong opinions in the course of filming.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was a 1974 thriller about a subway hijacking. It didn't tackle social issues but gave viewers some heart-pounding insights into the deteriorating, increasingly violent and ever-sardonic New York City of the day.

Mr. Sargent also directed Jaws: The Revenge, shooting it in 54 breakneck days for summer release in 1987. Steven Spielberg took nearly three times that long to shoot the original.

Mr. Sargent's Emmys were for directing The Marcus-Nelson Murders (1973), based on a true story about a wrongfully accused black man; Love Is Never Silent (1985), the Depression-era story of a young woman caring for her deaf parents; the mystery Caroline? (1990); and Miss Rose Whit (1992), the story of a young woman forced to confront her Jewish identity.

Born to Italian immigrants in Jersey City, N.J., on July 22, 1925, Giuseppe Daniele Sorgente was the son of an ice-wagon driver and a seamstress. As a boy, he organized a neighborhood circus. He changed his name to Joseph Sargent early in his career.

Mr. Sargent entered the Army during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Several of his films delved into the war: MacArthur (1977), starring Gregory Peck, was a biography of the U.S. general, and Warm Springs (2005) was an HBO movie about Franklin D. Roosevelt's battle with polio. - L.A. Times