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May 25, 2012

Lee Rich, Prominent Exec, Producer, Co-Founder of Lorimar

In a career spanning three decades, Rich left an indelible imprint on television with such hit series as The Waltons and many others.

Lee Rich, a television executive who co-founded Lorimar — the production company responsible for such successful series as The Waltons and Dallas — has died. He was 85.

Rich spent more than three decades in the entertainment industry and worked in numerous capacities, including advertising, programming and producing both television and feature films.

From 1969 to 1986 he and partner Merv Adelson collaborated as executive producers of more than 30 series for Lorimar Television — according to news reports, more than 1,600 episodes. Familiar shows included The Waltons, Dallas, Eight Is Enough, Falcon Crest and Knots Landing.

The Waltons, which aired from 1971 to 1980, is now regarded as a classic. During its run, the show earned 82 Primetime Emmy nominations and won 29 times, including the award for outstanding drama series in 1973.

Rich also produced dozens of made-for-television movies and miniseries, ampng them such memorable productions as The Blue Knight, with William Holden, and Sybil, with Sally Field.

Lorimar also made feature films, including Being There, The Postman Always Rings Twice and An Officer and a Gentleman. In 1985, Lorimar merged with Telepictures and became Lorimar-Telepictures.

Following the merger, Rich served as chairman and CEO of MGM/UA, a position he held from 1986-88. During that time, he oversaw such television series as such TV series as In the Heat of the Night and thirtysomething and theatrical films that included Baby Boom, The Living Daylights, Willow and Moonstruck.

Lee Rich had the distinction of being interviewed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s Archive of American Television.

During the interview, conducted by Jeffrey Glaser on April 12, 1999, in Los Angeles, Rich began by discussing his start in television at the advertising agency Benton & Bowles, where he worked to package and sell The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Danny Thomas Show. Largely serving as an additional producer on the shows during those early days of television, when advertising agencies enjoyed almost total control over programming, Rich recounted how he left the agency in 1965 to form his own production company, Mirisch-Rich Productions.

Mirisch-Rich produced such television programs as The Rat Patrol and one of the first Garry Marshall/Jerry Belson shows, Hey, Landlord.

Rich went on to discuss in detail the 1969 formation of the hugely successful production company Lorimar, which generated television hits The Waltons, Dallas, Eight Is Enough, Knots Landing, and numerous television movies, including Sybil and Helter Skelter.

The entire seven-part interview is available online here.

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