NY Times

Emmy-Winning TV Writer Dies at 93

Dec 12, 2014  •  Post A Comment

Ann Marcus, who was a creator and longtime head writer for the 1970s television show “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” has died, The New York Times reports.

Marcus died Dec. 3 in Los Angeles, her daughter, Ellyn Lindsay, told the publication. She was 93.

Before turning to television writing when she was 40, Marcus worked as a journalist and actress. Her early television work included writing for comedies such as “Dennis the Menace,” as well as the soap opera “Peyton Place” in the 1960s. She wrote or contributed to more than 40 episodes of the prime-time show before it came to an end in 1969.

When Norman Lear was looking for a writer for the pilot of “Mary Hartman,” he turned to Marcus after getting turned down by writers such as Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr., of “I Love Lucy,” the story notes. The show was about a wife, played by Louise Lasser, who was so wrapped up in being a homemaker that she ignored the horrific murders of people and animals taking place around her.

Lear wrote in his memoir that people asked him, “Norman, how can we expect laughs after the slaughter of an entire family?”

Marcus agreed to write the pilot, and Lear wrote in his memoir that she came up with Mary’s reaction to the slaughter. “What kind of a madman would want to kill two goats and eight chickens?” the character asked. While looking at the label of a product in her hand, she added, “And the people. The people, of course.”

Marcus shared an Emmy with Jerry Adelman and Daniel Gregory Browne for writing the pilot, which aired in 1976. She served as the head writer for many of the show’s 325 episodes, the piece adds.

Marcus told the Archive of American Television in 2001 that she tried to incorporate socially relevant plots in her scripts. “I majored in sociology,” she said. “I was always interested in racism, in problems of class.”

ann marcus

Ann Marcus

One Comment

  1. People forget what a revolutionary program was Mary Hartman. Like many of Norman Lear’s programs, it helped to drive an entirely different form of comedy on television. Because it only lasted two years, it doesn’t get the same credit as other Lear shows like All in the Family, The Jeffersons and Maude. But Mary Hartman is still one of the great parodies of Soap Opera’s; and its successor Fernwood 2Night, with Martin Mull and Fred Willard, was one of the funniest parodies of Late night talk shows.

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