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TV Giant Who Helped Get On-Air Such Series as ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ ‘The Waltons’ and ‘Dallas’ Dies. He Also Gave the Green Light to the Movies ‘A Fish Called Wanda,’ ‘Moonstruck’ and ‘Rain Man’

May 29, 2012  •  Post A Comment

The Emmy-winning television producer who helped get on-air such classic TV series as "The Andy Griffith Show," The Waltons" and "Dallas" has died, according to a number of media reports.

"Lee Rich, co-founder and former president of Lorimar Productions, died Thursday of lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles, a Warner Bros. spokesman confirmed. He was 93." That’s from the account of the story by Dennis McLellan in the Los Angeles Times, as picked up by the Kansas City Star. [Note: The Los Angeles Times limits the number of articles non-subscribers can view.]

Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp., said in a statement, “Lee Rich was a giant in the television industry who produced some of the most iconic series in the history of the medium and influenced audiences worldwide. He also served as an early mentor to me while I was at Lorimar, providing valuable guidance for which I will forever be appreciative."

According to McLellan’s story, "After serving in the Navy as a lieutenant in World War II, [Rich] eventually went to work for Benton & Bowles in New York, where he rose to senior vice president and a member of the board. As the agency liaison between sponsors and producers, he was involved with ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ ‘Make Room for Daddy,’ ‘The Edge of Night,’ ‘Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,’ ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’  and others. ‘Advertising is the best background I could have ever had for this business,’ Rich told Advertising Age in 1987. ‘I learned the business, and that’s a major problem with people out here — they don’t know the business.’

Rich was also at one time the top executive at the Leo Burnett ad agency, the article notes.

Fred Silverman, at TV legend himself who has worked at ABC, CBS and NBC, told McLellan, "Rich never held a job at a TV network." But as head of TV and media at Benton & Bowles and later as a producer, "he probably had more influence on what the networks programmed than maybe 99 percent of the program executives that were at the networks during the period that he was actively employed."

As an advertising executive and a producer, Silverman said, Rich was responsible for at least half a dozen blockbuster network series.

As a co-founder of Lorimar in 1969, The Hollywood Reporter notes that "Rich served as executive producer of more than 1,600 episodes of 33 Lorimar TV series, including ‘The Waltons,’ ‘Dallas,’ ‘Eight Is Enough,’ ‘Falcon Crest,’ ‘Knots Landing,’ ‘King’s Crossing’ and ‘Flamingo Road.’"

Rich was nominated for five Emmys and won for his producing work on "The Waltons" in 1973.

The THR article adds that "Rich also served as executive producer of 45 made-for-television movies and miniseries, including ‘The Man’ with James Earl Jones; ‘The Blue Knight,’ considered television’s first miniseries, for which William Holden earned an Emmy in 1973; ‘Sybil,’ for which Sally Field won an Emmy in 1977; and ‘Helter Skelter’ in 1977."

According to McLellan’s article, "After leaving Lorimar in 1986, Rich joined MGM/UA Communications. During his two years as chairman and chief executive, he green-lighted the films ‘A Fish Called Wanda,’ ‘Moonstruck’ and ‘Rain Man.’"

McLellan’s story notes, "Rich is survived by his longtime partner, actress Pippa Scott; five children, Michael Henes, Jessica Rich, Miranda Rich Tollman, Blair Rich and Anthony Rich; and seven grandchildren."

You can find a terrific interview with Rich as part of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Archive of American Television if you click here.

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