Wilton Schiller, Who Produced the Record-Breaking Episode of 'The Fugitive,' Dies at 95
Wilton Schiller, who co-produced the climactic final season of the ABC drama The Fugitive, including the series finale in 1967 that attracted more than 78 million viewers and shattered television records, has died. He was 95.
Schiller, who also wrote episodes of that show as well as for other series including The Adventures of Superman, Leave It to Beaver, Lassie, Adam-12 and Dragnet, died peacefully at his home in Studio City on Sunday, said his wife of 39 years, writer-producer Patricia Payne Schiller.
In “The Judgment Part II,” which aired on Aug. 29, 1967, and was the 120th episode of The Fugitive, accused killer Richard Kimble (David Janssen) finally clears his name when he catches up with the one-armed man (Bill Raisch) who had murdered his wife.
The episode was at the time the most-watched series episode in TV history, viewed in 25.7 million households as 45.9 percent of American households with a set tuned in. The viewership record was held until the Nov. 21, 1980, episode of Dallas that revealed who shot J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman).
Schiller also produced for Ben Casey, starring Vince Edwards, and Mannix, starring Mike Connors; was executive story consultant for The Six Million Dollar Man, starring Lee Majors; and with his wife wrote a two-part Captain America movie of the week in 1979 that starred Reb Brown as the Marvel hero.
Later, Schiller and Payne wrote and produced For the Term of His Natural Life, a 1983 six-hour Australian historical miniseries that starred Anthony Perkins.
Schiller pioneered co-productions between the U.S. and Canada in the early 1970s with the series Police Surgeon, which featured Martin Sheen, John Candy, William Shatner and Leslie Nielsen, and the 1976 movie-of-the-week The Man Inside, starring James Franciscus and Stefanie Powers.
Schiller wrote the screenplay for the 1964 movie The New Interns, with George Segal, Dean Jones and Telly Savalas, and was executive producer of the Payne-produced 2007 film California Dreaming, starring Lea Thompson.
Born July 24, 1919, in Chicago, Schiller graduated from the University of Chicago and began his career in his hometown, working as a writer in radio and performing stand-up comedy. During World War II, he served as a psychiatric assistant in the Army.
After the war, Schiller went to Hollywood and worked as a literary agent at MCA.
He also wrote for the shows Have Gun — Will Travel, Broken Arrow, Rawhide and M Squad and in the 1960s taught screenwriting at UCLA.
In addition to his wife, survivors include his nephew Roger; grandnephews Neal, Paul and Scott; cousins Michael and Arthur; second cousins Joyce, Laura, Russell, David, Bruce, Elliot, Dan, Alan and Laurence; grandson Dorian; and great granddaughter Julia.
There will be no funeral service. The family asks that donations be made to Doctors Without Borders or to a favorite charity.