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Former Network TV Exec Deanne Barkley Dies at 82

She shepherded telefilms and miniseries at ABC and NBC in the 1970s and helped Ron Howard transition from acting to directing.

Deanne Barkley, an influential television executive in the early 1970s who jump-started the careers of Ron Howard, Joel Schumacher and others, died April 2 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. She was 82.

The writer-producer died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, her son, Wilson Shirley, told the Los Angeles Times.

Barkley was a vp in charge of movies for ABC in 1972, and later she helped turn novels such as James Clavell's Shogun and James Michener's Centennial into miniseries at NBC. She was described by the Times in 1974 as having "more economic clout than probably any other woman in television." 

At NBC, she helped Howard, a child star on The Andy Griffith Show, to go behind the camera with his first directing assignment, the 1978 telefilm Cotton Candy. Barkley also introduced Howard to Brian Grazer, the producer with whom he later founded Imagine Entertainment.

Schumacher sold his first TV screenplay to Barkley at ABC, the Times noted.

A native of New Orleans, Barkley studied journalism at Northwestern and worked at the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper as a reporter. She moved to New York and wrote for I've Got a Secret and other game shows produced by the Goodson-Todman company as well as for talk shows hosted by Helen Gurley Brown, Virginia Graham, Les Crane and Dick Cavett.

Barkley later worked as an independent producer at the Robert Stigwood Organization and developed movie projects for the Osmond family. She wrote a 1978 novel, Freeway, that served as the basis for a 1988 film.

Barkley, who retired to Hawaii in 1988, was married and divorced five times. She is survived by a brother, five children (she had a set of triplets), 10 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.