Nancy Malone, Actress, Pioneering Director and TV Exec, Dies at 79

Courtesy Harlan Boll

She starred on “Naked City,” helmed episodes of many Aaron Spelling dramas, produced for stage and screen and co-founded Women in Film.

Nancy Malone, an actress, TV director and Emmy-winning producer who co-founded Women in Film and was a groundbreaking female executive at 20th Century Fox in the 1970s, has died. She was 79.

Malone died Thursday at City of Hope hospital in Duarte, Calif., of pneumonia that arose from complications attributed to a recent battle with leukemia, publicist Harlan Boll said.

Malone played Libby Kingston, the girlfriend of young detective Adam Flint (Paul Burke), in 51 episodes of Naked City, the gritty docudrama that aired on ABC from 1958-63. She collected an Emmy Award nomination in 1963 for her work on the show.

The New York native won her Emmy (shared with Linda Hope and Don Mischer) in 1993 for producing the special Bob Hope: The First 90 Years. She also earned two other noms for directing for the series The Trials of Rosie O’Neill on CBS and Sisters on NBC.

In 1975, Malone produced her first telefilm, NBC’s Winner Take All, starring Shirley Jones, then joined Fox as director of TV development. Soon, she was promoted to vp television, putting her at an unprecedented level at a major studio.

Around this time, Malone co-founded Women in Film, the nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women advance in the entertainment, communications and media industries. In 1977, she was awarded one of the first Crystal Awards by WIF.

Malone was born March 19, 1935, on Long Island. She began her career at age 7 as a model and appeared in ads for Kellogg’s cereal, Ford cars and Macy’s. At 10, she was chosen for the cover of Life magazine's 10th anniversary issue, “The Typical American Girl.”

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She appeared in one of TV’s first soap operas, CBS’ The First Hundred Years, and at 15 made her Broadway debut as the title character in Time Out for Ginger, also starring Melvyn Douglas.

When she returned to New York after a year touring with the production, Charles Laughton chose her to play Jenny Hill on Broadway in George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara.

In the 1965-66 ABC drama The Long, Hot Summer, she starred as Clara Varner, the character played by Joanne Woodward in the movie on which the series was based.

Malone also appeared on such TV shows as Bonanza, The Fugitive, The Partridge Family, Big Valley, The Rockford Files, Outer Limits, Dr. Kildare, The Andy Griffith Show, Hawaii Five-0, The Twilight Zone and Lou Grant and worked opposite Burt Reynolds in the 1973 film The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.

In 1975, Malone established Lilac Productions, which produced such telefilms as Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976), with Roger Moore, Patrick Macnee and John Huston; Like Mom, Like Me (1978) starring Linda Lavin; and The Violation of Sarah McDavid (1981), with Patty Duke.

In the 1980s, Malone completed the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women -- few women were directing at the time -- and then helmed the 1985 PBS telefilm There Were Times, Dear, starring Jones and Len Cariou.

The first film about Alzheimer’s disease, it was used as a fundraiser by Alzheimer’s chapters around the country and raised nearly $3 million to combat the disease.

In 1985, Malone directed an episode of Dynasty, after which she became a staff director at Aaron Spelling Productions and helmed installments of Hotel, Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210.

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In addition to Sisters and Rosie O’Neill, she directed episodes of Knots Landing, Cagney & Lacey, Star Trek: Voyager, Touched by an Angel, Dawson’s Creek, Judging Amy, Starman and Resurrection Blvd.

Recently, she co-produced and directed a live event, The N.Y. Pops Tribute to Bob Hope, at Carnegie Hall. It featured Angela Lansbury, Michele Lee, Tyne Daly, Michael Feinstein and others and raised funds for the Pops’ music outreach programs for New York public schools.

She directed many stage productions, including Big Maggie, starring frequent collaborator Daly.

“She was one of the funniest known human beings. With her unfailing good taste and a heart of Irish gold, I loved working and playing with her,” Daly said in a statement.

Malone also taught classes at UCLA, New York University, the National University of Ireland, Galway and elsewhere. In 2010, she presented her papers and memorabilia to UCLA Library Special Collections.

Malone is survived by Hope, her colleague and longtime friend who is the adoptive daughter of Bob Hope and his wife Dolores.

Services are to be announced. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the City of Hope, to the Directing Workshop for Women at AFI or to the Performing Animals Welfare Society.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4