Don Safran, Screenwriter, Producer and Marketing Exec, Dies at 84

Don from THR - P 2014
Courtesy of Stephanie and Dona Safran

Don from THR - P 2014

A former journalist who wrote for THR, he worked on such films as "Peggy Sue Got Married" and "Steel Magnolias" with frequent collaborator Ray Stark, the independent film legend.

Don Safran, a screenwriter, producer and marketing executive who collaborated often with famed independent producer Ray Stark, died Feb. 17 of congestive heart failure in Dallas. He was 84.

A former reporter, film critic and arts and entertainment editor for the Dallas Times Herald who also wrote for The Hollywood Reporter in the 1970s, Safran co-wrote the film Homework (1982), starring Joan Collins as a sexy teacher who decides to make a man out of one of her students.

He also penned an episode of Happy Days and executive produced and wrote for Blue Thunder, a short-lived ABC series based on the 1983 Roy Scheider action film.

Most recently, Safran was an executive producer on the 2004 TNT telefilm The Goodbye Girl, an adaptation of the Neil Simon romantic comedy. This version starred Jeff Daniels and Patricia Heaton.

Safran earlier served as vp publicity for Columbia Pictures and then as executive vp marketing for Stark's company, Rastar Productions.

Stark, who received the Irving Thalberg Award in 1979, was involved in more than 100 films during his career, including Funny Girl (1968), The Sunshine Boys (1975), The Goodbye Girl (1977), The Electric Horseman (1979), Annie (1982), Biloxi Blues (1988) and Steel Magnolias (1989). He died in 2004.

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As a Rastar executive, Safran oversaw the last four on that list. He also did marketing on such films as Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Chapter Two (1979), The Big Brawl (1980), Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Nothing in Common (1986), The Secret of My Success (1987) and Random Hearts (1999).

Safran was born in Brooklyn, where he graduated from Lafayette High School. He served two years in the U.S. Marines before studying journalism at Mexico City College and Arizona State.

He joined the Times Herald in 1956 as a nightclub reporter and was cited in the Warren Report for his conversations with Jack Ruby, a nightclub and strip club owner, days before Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, charged with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in November 1963.

In addition to his work with the newspaper, he hosted a radio show featuring celebrity interviews and was one of the founders of what is now known as the Dallas-based USA Film Festival.

After moving to Los Angeles in the 1970s, he reported for publications that included THR and Los Angeles magazine before landing the job at Columbia.

He was a member of the Writers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His later years were focused on writing novels and short stories.

His wife, Jill, died in July 2013. Survivors include his daughters Dona, Vicky and Stephanie, sisters Rhoda and Muriel and numerous nieces and nephews.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4