Renee Valente, Casting Executive and Pioneering Producer, Dies at 88

Renee Valente
Courtesy of Brilliant Media & Special Events

The Emmy winner, who started out as David Susskind’s part-time secretary, was the first female president of the PGA and an honoree at the inaugural Artios Awards.

Renee Valente, the veteran casting executive and Emmy Award winner who was the first woman to serve as president of the Producers Guild of America, has died. She was 88.

Valente, also the first female vice president of Screen Gems and Columbia Pictures Television, died Feb. 20 at her home in Studio City, her friend and publicist Suzanne Lewis told The Hollywood Reporter.

At the Casting Society of America’s inaugural Artios Awards in 1985, Valente was honored for her “contribution to the entertainment industry and the casting process.” Two years later, she was a recipient of a prestigious Crystal Award from Women in Film.

She produced more than 70 telefilms and features during her career, including the Peter Falk-starring A Storm in Summer, which won her a Daytime Emmy. Valente also received an Emmy nomination in 1979 for producing the limited series Blind Ambition, which starred Martin Sheen as Richard Nixon’s White House counsel John Dean.

As a casting exec, Valente worked on such TV series as Circle of Fear, The Partridge Family and Police Woman. She served as president of the PGA in the 1980s.

  

A native of New York, Valente started her career as David Susskind’s part-time secretary at his production company Talent Associates and rose through the ranks to become head of production.

She left Talent Associates for NASA, where she produced a series of specials, then shifted to Screen Gems, where she became head of talent and casting.

Valente was married to set designer/art director Burr Smidt (A Thousand Clowns, Requiem for a Heavyweight) for 40 years until his death in 2000. They met during production of the 1961 telefilm The Power and the Glory, starring Laurence Olivier, Julie Harris and George C. Scott.
 
Survivors include two step-daughters and her dog, Freddy.

Memorial services are pending. Please contact rashelley18@aol.com for more information.

comments powered by Disqus