Malcolm Marmorstein, Screenwriter on 'Dark Shadows' and 'Pete's Dragon,' Dies at 92

Malcolm Marmorstein
Courtesy of Wayne Marmorstein

Malcolm Marmorstein

He also penned three comedy movies starring his good friend, Elliott Gould.

Malcolm Marmorstein, a screenwriter who worked on the first season of the soap opera Dark Shadows and on films including Pete's Dragon, Return From Witch Mountain and S*P*Y*S, has died. He was 92.

Marmorstein, who started out as a Broadway stagehand, died Nov. 21 in Los Angeles of cancer, his son Wayne Marmorstein announced.

Marmorstein counted Elliott Gould as a good friend, and in addition to writing S*P*Y*S (1974), which reteamed the actor with his M*A*S*H co-star Donald Sutherland, he penned Whiffs (1975), a comedy starring Gould and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer O'Neil, and wrote and directed Dead Men Don't Die (1990), starring Gould as a newscaster-turned zombie.

He also wrote and directed Love Bites (1993), starring singer Adam Ant.

Pete's Dragon (1977), a live-action/animation hybrid starring Helen Reddy, Mickey Rooney and Shelley Winters, and the sequel Return From Witch Mountain (1978), featuring Bette Davis and Christopher Lee, were both made at Disney.

Marmorstein was born on Aug. 9, 1928, in Jersey City, New Jersey. His father, Louis, was a lighting director who worked on Broadway and often took him to work with him. He attended Jersey City Teachers College, where he majored in playwriting and acting.

Marmorstein as a Broadway stagehand worked on such notable productions as 1947's A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy and Karl Malden; the 1952 revival of Pal Joey that starred Harold Lang and Vivienne Segal; 1953's The Love of Four Colonels, starring Rex Harrison; 1955's Damn Yankees, starring Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse; and 1961's Kean, starring Alfred Drake.

As stage manager for the revue A Thurber Carnival on Broadway in 1960, Marmorstein became friends with James Thurber, and the famed cartoonist became his mentor. "He gave me important tips and stressed the ideas of rewriting, which can sometimes be 75 percent or 90 percent of the job," he said.

Meanwhile, he was working as stage manager on such TV programs as Who Do You Trust?, the game show hosted by Johnny Carson; Dick Clark's American Bandstand; and The Ernie Kovacs Show.

Marmorstein became a sub-writer on CBS' Love of Life; joined another soap opera, ABC's The Doctors, as head writer in 1963; and penned 82 episodes of Dark Shadows during the soap's first season of 1966-67. A job on the ABC primetime soap Peyton Place brought him to Hollywood in 1968.

Survivors include his second wife, Barbara, and children, Larry, Wayne, Darragh and Mitchell. He was married to his first wife, Martha, for 48 years until her death in 1996.