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Marshall Flaum, a visionary documentarian and five-time Emmy-winning producer-director-writer, died Oct. 1 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications following hip surgery. He was 85.
Marshall Flaum and Jacques Costeau
During a 55-year career, Flaum’s work included collaborations with Jacques Cousteau, Jane Goodall, David Wolper, Jack Haley Jr. and Hanna-Barbera, with subjects ranging from Lyndon Johnson and Frank Lloyd Wright to James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
In the first of his two Oscar-nominated docs, “The Yanks Are Coming” (1963), Flaum created what he called “the entertainment documentary.” He became one of the first in his field to integrate popular music of the time with stock footage of World War I.
“Let My People Go: The Story of Israel” (1965), for which he received his second Academy Award nom and a Peabody Award, examined the plight of the Jews.
After serving in the Army in World War II and studying acting at the University of Iowa, Flaum headed to Broadway and appeared with Basil Rathbone in “Julius Caesar” and with Olivia de Havilland in “Romeo and Juliet” in the early 1950s while studying acting with Lee Strasberg.
In 1957, he began a six-year stint at CBS as a writer, story editor and associate producer on the Walter Cronkite documentary series “The Twentieth Century,” then moved to Hollywood to join a group of young filmmakers working for Wolper.
Flaum collaborated with Haley to produce one of the first Hollywood compilation films, “Hollywood: The Great Stars” (1963), for TV and Wolper Prods. His other Hollywood docs included “Hollywood: The Selznick Years” (1969), “Tribute to Bogart” (1972) and “Bing Crosby: His Life and Legend” (1978).
Flaum worked with Cousteau for six seasons and 25 films as executive producer and writer of the renowned 1970s specials that comprised “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau,” winning documentary Emmys for “A Sound of Dolphins” and “The Unsinkable Sea Otter.”
He also served for four seasons as executive producer and writer of the “Jane Goodall and the World of Animal Behavior” series of specials that included “The Wild Dogs of Africa,” for which he landed another Emmy.
In addition to his five Emmys (and 16 noms), Flaum’s awards include two Peabodys, the Golden Nymph from the Monte-Carlo International TV Festival, a Golden Hugo from the Chicago International Film Festival and a Silver Lion from the Venice International Film Festival.
Flaum also produced “A Yabba-Dabba-Doo Celebration: 50 Years of Hanna-Barbera,” “Playboy’s 25th Anniversary Special” and “The Natural History of Our World: The Time of Man.”
A premiere collector of movie posters of the 1930s and ’40s, Flaum served on the documentary nominating committee for the Academy Awards and was a member of the WGA and DGA.
The Brooklyn native is survived by his wife of 62 years, Gita; his children, film editors Erica and Seth; his grandchildren, Maxwell and Elizabeth; and his sister, June Flaum Singer.
A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
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