Chuck Fries Dies: Producer’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award-Winner Was 92
Charles “Chuck” Fries, whose career as a television and film producer included a long list of classic shows, series, and films, died Wednesday at age 92. No cause of death was given by his family.
During a prolific career that spanned more than 60 years, he participated in the production of more than 5,000 series episodes, 140 television movies and mini-series, and more than 40 theatrical films.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Fries graduated from Ohio State University, where he later received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree.
He began his career at Ziv Television in 1952, where he worked on legendary syndicated shows like The Cisco Kid, Highway Patrol, Bat Masterson, and Sea Hunt. From Ziv, he moved to Screen Gems in 1960, where he was involved in the production of such classics as Naked City, Route 66, Bewitched, Hazel, The Monkees, and Father Knows Best.
Later, he oversaw feature film production at Columbia Pictures and worked with top producers and directors in the industry on films such as Castle Keep, The Horseman, Easy Rider, The Martian Chronicles, Five Easy Pieces, and Getting Straight.
Considered the godfather of the television movie, he pioneered the genre at Metromedia Productions in the 70s (with more than 30 movies for TV and nine television series). He then mastered it with his own independent production and distribution company, Fries Entertainment.
Known for issue-oriented movies, Fries Entertainment programs included more than 200 hours of content for ABC, CBS, and NBC, including iconic TV movies like Small Sacrifices starring Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O’Neal; The Neon Empire, a three-hour epic saga starring Ray Sharkey, Martin Landau, and Gary Busey; Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean, starring Suzanne Pleshette and Lloyd Bridges; The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, starring Rock Hudson; Woman on the Ledge with Deidre Hall; Bitter Harvest, starring Ron Howard and Art Carney; The Word, starring David Jansen and based on the book by Irving Wallace; and the Emmy-nominated LBJ, starring Randy Quaid and Patty Lupone.
Fries also produced dozens of theatrical films during this time, including Cat People with Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, and John Heard; Out of Bounds, featuring Anthony Michael Hall; the original Spider-Man series for foreign markets; and the cult-classic Troop Beverly Hills, starring Shelly Long and fashioned after his wife Ava’s real-life experience leading a Girl Scout troop.
He was a lifetime member of the Producer’s Guild and recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award, a former chair of the American Film Institute, and served in leadership roles in the Academy of Arts & Television Sciences and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. He was also a guiding force in The Caucus for Producers, Writers, & Directors for over 45 years, serving five terms as chair and receiving their most coveted awards.
Much of that history as a renowned Hollywood producer was documented in his memoir, Chuck Fries Godfather of the Television Movie: A History of Television, which was published in October of 2013.
Survivors include his wife of 33 years, Ava, and seven children: Charles M. Fries (Jonna), Suzanne Fries-Hostka, Chris Fries (Heather), Dyanne Fries, Mike Fries (Michelle), Alice Fries, and Jon Fries (Lena), as well as step-daughter Diane Sherry Case. He also had 22 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by two children, son Thomas Fries (Debi) and step-daughter Cami Markman.
A private memorial service for family will be held April 29th. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to The Caucus Foundation (caucusfoundation.org) which is dedicated to expanding diversity in the entertainment industry with scholarship support, financial grants, and mentoring for the next generation of producers, writers and directors.
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