Edith Tolkin, Studio Exec and Matriarch of Show Business Writers, Dies at 93

Edith Tolkin P 2016
Courtesy of Tolkin family

A rare female legal executive during her time at MGM and Paramount, she was the widow of Mel Tolkin, the head writer on Sid Caesar's 'Your Show of Shows.'

Edith Tolkin, a former attorney and legal affairs executive at MGM and Paramount and the widow of legendary comedy writer Mel Tolkin, has died. She was 93.

Tolkin died Thursday in Los Angeles after a long illness, according to her son, writer-director Stephen Tolkin (TV's Summerland, Legend of the Seeker).

Survivors also include her son Michael Tolkin, a writer-director who adapted his novel and received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Robert Altman's The Player (1992).

Mel Tolkin is best known as the head writer on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour. He presided over a staff that included at one time or another Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Lucille Kallen, Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen. He and Edith married in 1946, and he died in 2007.

Born in Montreal on Nov. 27, 1922, Edith Tolkin graduated from Columbia Law as one of only eight women in her class. She began her career as an attorney for MGM in 1961 at a time when "it was routinely accepted that a woman would be paid about 50 percent of what a man doing the same job on the same floor would be paid," her son Stephen said.

In 1971, Tolkin shifted to Paramount, where she served as project attorney on many of the studio's signature films of the '70s and '80s. She was a senior vp in legal affairs at the time of her retirement.

A mentor to a generation of younger attorneys, Tolkin also served as president of the Los Angeles Copyright Society from 1980-81.

She also is survived by four grandchildren.