TV Producer Emmet G. Lavery Jr. Dies at 86


Emmet G. Lavery Jr., an entertainment attorney and television executive for Fox and Paramount who also produced several telefilms in the 1970s, died Sunday in Encino of natural causes. He was 86.

His father was Emmet Lavery, a lawyer, newspaperman and playwright who wrote such Broadway hits as The Magnificent Yankee. He also served as president of the Screen Writers Guild from 1945 to 1947 and earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955), starring Gary Cooper.

His son launched Emmet G. Lavery Jr. Productions in 1975, where he produced such telefilms as Delancey Street: The Crisis Within (1975), with Louis Gossett Jr.; Act of Violence (1979) starring Elizabeth Montgomery; and Nero Wolfe (1979), with Thayer David as the famed detective and connoisseur.

The Wolfe project was designed as the pilot for an ABC series after Paramount Television had purchased the rights to Rex Stout’s series of novels. Orson Welles was originally set to star as the detective but bowed out.

Lavery Jr. also produced an episode of Serpico, the short-lived NBC series starring David Birney as the maverick New York City cop, and the telefilm The Ghost of Flight 401 (1978), starring Ernest Borgnine.

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Lavery Jr. was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Aug. 10, 1927. He attended Williston Academy in Easthampton, Mass., served in the U.S. Army in 1945 and 1946 and graduated from UCLA in 1950.  He earned his law degree from UCLA Law School in 1953 and was admitted to the California bar a year later.

He specialized in entertainment law as a partner at Fink, Levinthal and Lavery from 1954 to 1960, then operated his own firm until 1963.

Tapped by former NBC chairman Pat Weaver, the broadcast pioneer behind The Tonight Show and the Today show, Lavery joined the maverick Subscription Television as vp and resident counsel.

STV’s premiere broadcast on July 17, 1963, marked the first time a baseball game had been sent by closed circuit into a residence of any kind. However, the venture eventually failed as the over-the-air broadcasters used their combined clout to derail it.

In 1965, Lavery was named director of business affairs at 20th Century Fox Television, then moved to Paramount TV as vp business affairs in February 1967.

He joined DLT Entertainment as vp business affairs in 1981 until his retirement in 2010.

Survivors include his daughter, Tracy, his son, Geoffrey and his sister, Elizabeth.

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