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Dick Berg, a prominent television writer and producer whose career ranged from live TV to movies of the week and longform programming, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles after a brief illness. He was 87.
His producing credits range from “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater” to the detective series “Checkmate” to the miniseries “Space” and “The Martian Chronicles.”
With his wife of 63 years, Barbara, he also headed something of a modern-day Hollywood dynasty. Their sons are ICM chairman and CEO Jeff Berg, author A. Scott Berg, music producer and executive Tony Berg and producer and manager Rick Berg.
“More than anybody I can think of in television, my father proved to be extremely successful on a commercial level without every compromising quality,” Scott Berg said. “It wasn’t just that he had a great eye for talent — especially writers — but he really knew how to get the best out of everybody.
“On a personal level, my mother, brothers and I always knew that no matter how important his career was — and it was –it was always secondary to his family,” he said.
Richard Berg was born Feb. 16, 1922, in New York City. Graduating from Lehigh University in 1942, he headed to Hollywood in search of either an acting or producing job. He found work as a dialogue coach for Roy Rogers and other cowboys at Republic Pictures but after several years returned to the East Coast, where he ran Poor Richard’s Art Gallery and the Paint Bucket, an art supply store in Westport, Conn.
During his spare time, he began writing scripts on spec, and more than a dozen of his original dramas appeared on such live programs as “Kraft Theater,” “Robert Montgomery Presents,” “Studio One,” and “Playhouse 90.”
His teleplay “The Drop of a Hat” was adapted for the stage, catching the attention of Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Studios, which brought him to Hollywood as a screenwriter in 1957.
Berg eventually scored a long-term contract at Universal, where he created the series “Staccato,” starring John Cassavetes, before turning to producing with “Checkmate.”
For his dramatic anthologies “Alcoa Premiere” and “Chrysler Theater,” he hired such writers as William Inge, Rod Serling and J. P. Miller and worked with such up-and-coming actors as Robert Redford, Simone Signoret, Anne Bancroft, Rod Steiger, Cliff Robertson, Jason Robards and Lee. J. Cobb and such directors as Sydney Pollack, Mark Rydell, Robert Ellis Miller and Stuart Rosenberg.
For three decades, Berg’s Stonehenge Prods. produced dozens of movies of the week and miniseries, many with historical or socially relevant themes. In 1985, he was nominated for two Emmys for producing “Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story,” starring Richard Chamberlain, and “Space,” based on the James Michener novel.
Although his main focus was TV, he also produced several films including “House of Cards,” with George Peppard and Orson Welles, and “Counterpoint,” starring Charlton Heston and Maximilian Schell.
Berg served two terms as president of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
He is survived by his wife, four sons and seven grandchildren. Services will be private. Memorial donations may be made to the Writers Guild Foundation.
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