Howard Gottfried, Producer on 'Network' and 'Altered States,' Dies at 94

Courtesy of Norah Weinstein
Howard Gottfried

The Oscar nominee partnered three times with Paddy Chayefsky, whom he first met during a hotel card game.

Howard Gottfried, the Oscar-nominated producer who teamed with famed screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky on Network, The Hospital and Altered States, has died. He was 94.

Gottfried suffered a stroke and died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his daughter, Norah Weinstein, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Gottfried earned his Academy Award nomination for producing Sidney Lumet's Network (1976), which did not win the best picture trophy but did take four Oscars — for Chayefsky and actors Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight — amid its 10 noms.

The producer was the namesake for Finch's character, "Mad as Hell" anchorman Howard Beale.

Gottfried's first producing effort and first collaboration with Chayefsky came on director Arthur Hiller's gritty drama The Hospital (1971). Gottfried had been George C. Scott's divorce attorney and recruited the famed actor to star in the film. That project also resulted in the second of Chayefsky's three screenplay Oscars.

Gottfried and Chayefsky partnered one final time on Altered States (1980), directed by Ken Russell. While searching for the lead in the movie, Gottfried approached William Hurt after spotting him in an elevator and ultimately gave the actor his first feature role.

Gottfried also produced Body Double (1984), directed by Brian De Palma; Torch Song Trilogy (1988), starring Harvey Fierstein in the adaptation of the smash Broadway hit; and Suburban Commando (1991), with Hulk Hogan and Christopher Lloyd.

Born on Nov. 13, 1923, and raised in the Bronx, Gottfried graduated from City College of New York and the NYU School of Law. He began practicing law in New York and, in his spare time, produced off-Broadway theater.

Gottfried eventually landed an executive gig at United Artists, where he oversaw the company's involvement in such TV shows as Gilligan's Island, The Patty Duke Show and The Fugitive. He then moved to Ed Sullivan Productions to oversee development.

Gottfried was a regular in a card game played in an New York hotel, and it was there that he first met Chayefsky.

The screenwriter died of cancer in August 1981 at age 58, about nine months after Altered States hit theaters.

Gottfried received the Hall of Fame Award for Network from the Producers Guild of America in 2002. He and his wife, Mary Lynn, often frequented screenings at the Academy until the final few weeks of his life.

In addition to his wife and daughter Norah, survivors include daughter Elizabeth Colling, sons-in-law Brian Weinstein and Stephane Colling and grandchildren Sloane and Graham Weinstein and Celeste and Paloma Colling.