Charles W. Fries, the prolific producer and executive who was known as the “Godfather of the TV movie,” died Thursday in Los Angeles, his family announced. He was 92 years old.
In 1974, he founded Charles Fries Productions, which would later become Fries Entertainment. According to one estimate, he and his company produced and / or supervised over 275 hours of TV dramas, mini-series and series.
Fries had his greatest impact during the period he described in his autobiography as “the golden days of the TV movie” – the 25-year period from 1968 to 1993.
His projects included The Amazing Spider-Man series from the late 1970s; the 1980 Ray Bradbury miniseries The Martian Chronicles, with Rock Hudson; nineteen eighty one Bitter harvest, with Ron Howard and Art Carney; Rosemary Clooney’s Story (1982), with Sondra Locke as singer; the years 1989 Small sacrifices, with Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O’Neal; 90s Queen of wickedness, with Suzanne Pleshette as New York hotel magnate Leona Helmsley; and the three hour film from 1991 Neon empire, with Ray Sharkey, Martin Landau and Gary Busey.
For the big screen, Fries produced Cat people (1982), directed by Paul Schrader and starring Natassja Kinski; Off-limits (1986), with Anthony Michael Hall; and Howlers (1995), with Peter Weller.
He was also an executive producer on Flowers in the attic (1987), with Louise Fletcher, and Beverly Hills Troop (1989), with Shelley Long and Craig T. Nelson. (The latter was fashioned from the actual experience of his wife Ava leading a Girl Scout troop.)
âA producer’s job is really a roller coaster ride,â he wrote in his 2010 memoir. âSomeday you never know what level or what incline you’re going to ride – up or down. or upside down. It’s exciting, exhilarating and often very scary so you hang in there and are relieved when you complete the ride safely.
In 1984, Fries raised $ 9 million to go public. He entered the film business in 1985 and started a home video operation in 1987, but, hit by mounting losses, he closed the film division in 1990 and filed for reorganization under the chapter 11 a year later.
In a 1999 conversation for The Interviews: An Oral History of Television website, Fries said CrÃ©dit Lyonnais and other investment banks were investing too much money in the industry, leading companies to produce a glut. of products.
âWe found ourselves in a few business situations that I shouldn’t have been in,â he added. âThe home video business, I shouldn’t have been in there. I was not a home video student. I did pretty well on television.
Born in Cincinnati on September 30, 1928, Charles William Fries was the son of a grocer in the fruit and vegetable trade. He attended Elder High School and graduated from Ohio State University.
He came to Los Angeles in March 1952 for a $ 100 a week job as an accountant at Ziv Television – one of his uncles was treasurer there – and learned the trade as a pioneering syndication company, producing programs such as The Cisco child, Highway Patrol, Sea hunting, The Eddie Cantor Show and Bat masterson. (Another of his uncles was William Girard, producer at 20th Century Fox.)
In 1960, Fries was hired by William Dozier as vice president of production at Columbia Pictures’ Screen Gems, the television house of Naked city, Father knows best, Road 66, Delighted, Hazelnut, The Donna Reed Show and I dream of Jeannie. He joined the studio’s film division as vice president in charge of feature film production and administration and was instrumental in the Jack Nicholson project. Five easy pieces (1970).
Fries joined Metromedia Producers Corp. in 1970 as Executive Vice President and produced and / or supervised over two dozen TV dramas and series including Jacques Cousteau’s underwater world, before going out alone.
Fries was a member of the Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors for 45 years and served five terms as chair. He was also president of the American Film Institute, where the Charles W. Fries Producer of the Year Award honors and promotes quality television.
Survivors include Ava, his wife of 33 years; children Mike (CEO of Liberty Global), Charles, Suzanne, Chris, Dyanne, Mike, Alice and Jon; daughter-in-law Diane; 22 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.
He was married for 33 years to Carol Fries before divorcing in 1985.
Donations can be made to the Caucus Foundation, dedicated to expanding diversity in the entertainment industry with scholarships, financial grants and mentorship for the next generation of producers, writers and directors.