Monday, May 28, 2012

Lee Rich Dead at 93

Lee Rich, a former advertising executive who became a top television and film producer, has died at age 93.

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.

Rich's TV credits included working as executive producer of primetime soap operas DALLAS, KNOTS LANDING, FALCON CREST, KING'S CROSSING and FLAMINGO ROAD, as well as longtime CBS favorite THE WALTONS.

"THE WALTONS were right for the time," Rich told the Associated Press in 1982. "People were saying, 'That's my family, or I wished that was my family.'

"DALLAS was a respite for the American public, a fantasyland. We fulfilled the dreams of many people."

"In many ways KNOTS was, except for Larry Hagman, KNOTS was a better show than DALLAS," Rich said in an Emmy Legends interview. "More real story lines, and we had female villains. We had Donna Mills. I remember when we cast her, I said to her, 'you want to be a villain?' And she said, 'Great!'"

Fans of Lorimar primetime soaps would see Rich's name at the very end of the episodes, such as the "Who Shot J.R.?" cliffhanger back in 1980 (pictured above).

After leaving Lorimar in 1986, Rich joined MGM/UA Communications. During his two years as chairman and chief executive, he greenlighted films including A Fish Called Wanda, Moonstruck and Rain Man.

"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.

“He was one of the greatest producers to ever come out of advertising, and he knew talent better than anyone else,” said TV producer Norman Lear.

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