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Paul Aratow, a pioneer of California cuisine and a college professor who went on to produce the 1984 film Sheena, starring Tanya Roberts as the Queen of the Jungle, has died. He was 78.
Aratow died Nov. 15 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after undergoing surgery to address his terminal clival chordoma, his daughter, writer-producer Gabriella Aratow, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Aratow was a professor of literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and the first chef de cuisine at Chez Panisse, the famed restaurant in the college town that he launched with Alice Waters.
According to author David Kamp, a conversation with visiting lecturer Will Eisner led to Aratow obtaining the movie rights to two of the cartoonist’s most well-known creations, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and The Spirit.
Aratow went on to produce the Sheena film for Columbia Pictures. It was directed by John Guillermin and co-written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., who had collaborated on another jungle-set story, the 1976 remake of King Kong.
Aratow then produced The Spirit, a 1987 Warner Bros. telefilm for ABC that starred Sam J. Jones as a cop who survives an assassination attempt to continue his fight against crime as a mysterious figure in a blue business suit and fedora.
Aratow also wrote and co-directed with Al Adamson a 1978 film, Doctor Dracula (1978), starring John Carradine; produced My Man Adam (1985), a re-imagined My Man Godfrey, for TriStar Pictures and another Roberts starrer, Purgatory (1988); and wrote for the series The New Adam-12 and the cartoon Sport Billy.
A native of Elizabeth, N.J., Aratow was a graduate of Cornell University and UC Berkeley and a Fulbright scholar.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his son Jesse and daughter-in-law Liza, grandchildren Kalea and Lily and brother Arthur and sister-in-law Anita.
The family asked that donations be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund. A memorial is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Pagliacci’s Trattoria in Studio City.
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