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December 09, 2010

Primetime Emmy-Winning Writer-Producer Alan Armer Dies

In addition to his work on such classic series as The Untouchables and The Fugitive, Armer served as a president of the Television Academy.

Alan A. Armer, a television writer-producer who won a Primetime Emmy for the classic drama series The Fugitive, died December 5, 2010, at his home in Century City. He was 88.

According to news reports, the cause was colon cancer.

In addition to his lengthy television career, which spanned more than three decades, Armer was active in the Television Academy, which he served as president of the Hollywood chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the 1970s, during the tenure of Robert Lewine as president of the organization as a whole.

Born in Los Angeles on July 7, 1922, Armer served in the Army during World War II and was an announcer for Armed Forces Radio in India and Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. He earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and drama at Stanford University in 1947 and became an announcer at a radio station in San Jose.

He later returned to Los Angeles, where he worked at an advertising agency, an experience that provided an opportunity to write, direct, narrate and act in television commercials.

With colleague Walter Grauman, Armer developed Lights, Camera, Action, a live television talent show that aired on what was then known as KNBH Channel 4, the new NBC station in Hollywood, from 1949 to ’51.

He went on to produce 20th Century Fox’s first TV series, My Friend Flicka, which ran from 1955-58, as well as Broken Arrow and Man Without a Gun, also for Fox.

In addition, he produced the gangster drama The Untouchables.

Armer produced 90 episodes of The Fugitive, one of numerous series from executive producer Quinn Martin. The show aired on ABC from 1963-67 and starred David Janssen as a doctor on the run to avoid prosecution for a murder he did not commit. Armer won his Emmy when the series was named best drama in 1966.

Armer also produced three other Quinn Martin series of the era: The Invaders, Lancer and Cannon.

In the 1970s, Armer produced a number of made-for-television movies. In the same decade, he began teaching in the film and television department at California State University, Northridge. He eventually became a full professor

Armer wrote three books about writing and directing for television and worked as a professor for 20 years at Cal State Northridge. When he retired in 2000, he donated $1 million to the school for the construction of a 130-seat screening room, now called the Alan and Elaine Armer Theater

Armer, who earned a master's degree in theater arts at UCLA in 1982, wrote three books, including Directing Television and Film and Writing the Screenplay: TV and Film.

He is survived by a daughter, three sons, six grandchildren and two great-grandsons.

On July 15, 2008, Alan Armer had the distinction of being interviewed by the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television. During the three-hour interview, conducted in Los Angeles by Stephen J. Abramson, Armer began by talking about his early years growing up during the Great Depression. He acknowledged winning a World’s Fastest Talker contest, while a teenager, speaking 617 words in 57 seconds.

He went on to speak about his studies in speech and drama and his practical experience as an announcer in radio. He described his years in local television in Los Angeles at KNBH (now KNBC), where he worked in many capacities and developed the series Lights, Camera, Action, a showcase for new young acting talent.

He then chronicled his work as a producer at 20th Century Fox in series television, where he produced My Friend Flicka and Broken Arrow. With Broken Arrow’s production falling during the era of the Hollywood Blacklist, Armer revealed that the series’ original writers could not be hired, rejected by the sponsor (but that he later employed them on The Fugitive).

He also spoke in great detail about his association as executive producer with the classic crime series The Untouchables. Regarding the series, he commented on the controversy that arose due to the show’s portrayal of Italian-Americans, the necessity to tone down the show’s depiction of violence and lead actor Robert Stack’s performance as Eliot Ness.

In addition, he spoke at length about his work with producer Quinn Martin on the series The Fugitive. He gave his impressions of the cast, commented on the show’s highly rated finale and noted its Primetime Emmy win for best drama series. He also touched on later Quinn Martin-produced series The Invaders and Cannon.

Lastly, he talked about serving as chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the early 1970s, and the increase in membership and creation of the Film Group screenings during his tenure.

The entire interview is available online at http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/alan-a-armer

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