Arthur Marks, Producer and Director on 'Perry Mason' and a Blaxploitation Maverick, Dies at 92

Arthur Marks - Obit- Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Paul Marks

He's known for shepherding 'Detroit 9000' and Pam Grier's 'Friday Foster' and heading General Film Corp.

Arthur Marks, the producer and director who worked on Perry Mason for nearly a decade before guiding such blaxploitation favorites as Detroit 9000Friday Foster and Bucktown, has died. He was 92.

Marks died Nov. 13 at his home in Woodland Hills, California, his son, producer Paul Marks (NarcosParty of FiveChuck), told The Hollywood Reporter.

Marks also served as president of the fabled indie company General Film Corp., which distributed many of his blaxploitation movies as well as The Candy Snatchers (1973), Wonder Women (1973) and The Zebra Killer (1974).

The Los Angeles native helmed 76 episodes of Perry Mason and produced 145, from the Raymond Burr-starrer's first season of 1958-59 through the ninth and last (1965-66) of its original CBS run. 

Marks then directed Detroit 9000 (1973), which featured Hari Rhodes and Alex Rocco as mismatched cops; Friday Foster and Bucktown, both starring black feminist icon Pam Grier and released in 1975; J.D.'s Revenge (1976), a horror film toplined by Glynn Turman; and The Monkey Hustle (1976), starring Yaphet Kotto as a feel-good Chicago con man.

About blaxploitation films, Marks once said: "I believe when you put in the mix a good script, a terrific cast, an experienced and perceptive director and a professional production, what is the result? A film that audiences will enjoy and play eight weeks in a downtown theater in Chicago, Detroit or Kansas City.

"My intention was never to sell my films as a 'black' film, rather a film that will damn well entertain for 120 minutes…with excitement, passion and a heart-moving story."

Quentin Tarantino was a big fan of Detroit 9000, and he arranged to have it rereleased in theaters in 1998 through Miramax.

Arthur Ronald Marks was born Aug. 2, 1927, in Los Angeles. His grandparents were actors in silent pictures, and his father, Dave Marks, served as an MGM assistant director and production manager who worked on The Wizard of Oz and Easter Parade.

As a youngster, Arthur was an extra and bit actor in The Good Earth (1937), Boys Town (1938) and in Mickey Rooney's Andy Hardy series.  

He joined the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy during World War II, served with the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and briefly attended Santa Monica City College and USC. 

Marks left school and got a job working in the production department at MGM, and in 1952, was accepted into the DGA. He then worked as an assistant director at Columbia and on such TV shows as Casablanca and Broken Arrow before landing on Perry Mason.

Marks went on to direct other films, including Togetherness (1970), Bonnie's Kids (1972), Class of '74 (1972), The Roommates (1973), A Woman for All Men (1975) and Linda Lovelace for President (1975) and episodes of I SpyStarsky and HutchMannix and The Dukes of Hazzard.

Survivors include his sons Paul and Beau (also a producer); daughters Kathleen and Elizabeth; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. His wife of 62 years, Phyllis, died in 2013.