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Leonard Katzman, Executive Producer TV’s ‘Dallas,’ Dead at 69

September 8, 1996

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Leonard Katzman, executive producer of the Texas oil family saga ``Dallas″ and director of other shows that spanned the Golden Age of television to the present, has died. He was 69.

Katzman, who had just celebrated his birthday on Monday, died at his Malibu home on Thursday of an apparent heart attack, his son Mitchell said Saturday.

``Dallas″ premiered in 1978, and ran through May 1991, entertaining a worldwide audience with its tales of lust and treachery amid oil rigs and sprawling cattle ranches. The ``Who Shot J.R.?″ episode on Nov. 21, 1980, was the most-watched single show in TV history until the final episode of ``MASH″ on Feb. 28, 1983.

Jerry Zeitman, Katzman’s agent and friend of 50 years, noted that Katzman had 20 years of hit shows on CBS besides ``Dallas,″ including ``Gunsmoke,″ ``The Wild, Wild West,″ and ``Hawaii Five-O.″

``He was a great guy, loyal, remarkably generous to his family and his friends, a very unique human being,″ Zeitman said.

Katzman produced 356 episodes of ``Dallas,″ also writing and directing a third of them. His three children wrote, acted and directed alongside him. He died not long after finishing a ``Dallas″ reunion movie to air this fall.

TV viewers were obsessed with patriarch Jock Ewing (played by Jim Davis, who died in 1981) and matriarch Miss Ellie (played by Barbara Bel Geddes except during the 1984-85 season when Donna Reed filled in.)

Each week, evil son and oil magnate J.R. (Larry Hagman) and handsome and scrupulous younger brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy) sat down to dinner with cousins, wives and siblings at Southfork.

Over the years ratings plummeted; cast members quit; story lines grew old and just plain preposterous. Critics and fans bellowed over the infamous 1986 shower scene in which Bobby’s death _ and a whole season of shows _ turned out to be a dream.

But Katzman had no regrets. ``All we were ever trying to do was entertain the audience,″ he said during the last season. ``There was never any real deep meaning to it. We weren’t trying to do a documentary every week.″

Katzman was born in New York City. He began at an early age to work as an assistant director for his producer-uncle Sam Katzman, the king of B-grade movies, on the early movie serials ``Batman, ``Superman,″ and ``Brenda Starr.″

The pair also worked on the acclaimed anthology series ``Playhouse 90,″ and ``Alcoa Goodyear″ during the Golden Age of television in the 1950s.

His first step at producing was on ``Route 66″ and he began a writing career on ``The Wild, Wild West″ series, on which he also was associate producer.

Katzman went on to produce, direct and write ``Gunsmoke,″ for which he won the Western Heritage Award for the episode ``Pike.″ He also produced the television series ``Hawaii Five-O.″

After ``Dallas,″ Katzman went on to produce ``Walker, Texas Ranger,″ starring Chuck Norris.

In addition to Mitchell, Katzman is survived by his wife LaRue, his son Frank, and six grandchildren. His daughter Sherril Lynn Rettino, an actress who played Jackie Dugan on ``Dallas,″ died a year ago.

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