Patron of screenwriting Gee Nicholl dies

Best known for AMPAS' Nicholl fellowship program

Gladys "Gee" Nicholl, a longtime benefactor of media-related activities and the widow of TV writer-producer Don Nicholl, died Jan. 6 in Santa Barbara after a short illness. She was 86.

Nicholl is best known for her support of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Program.

Nicholl danced in the Indian Ballet Company in London and acted on stage and modeled on occasion. In the 1950s, she wrote a gossip column for the London-based pop music tabloid Record Mirror and drew upon that experience in writing the story upon which her husband based his screenplay for the 1958 rock 'n' roll musical feature "The Golden Disc."

When Don Nicholl was hired by Norman Lear to join the staff of "All in the Family," the Nicholls relocated from London to Los Angeles.

After her husband's death in 1980, Gee Nicholl, knowing that Don had long spoken of helping new writers get started, provided funding first for grants for students in the screenwriting program at Stanford University and then for the Academy's Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Program.

In the 24 years since its inception, the Nicholl Fellowships has become one of the world's most prestigious awards for amateur writers. The program has given boosts to the careers of screenwriters such as Susannah Grant ("Erin Brockovich"), Andrew Marlowe ("Air Force One") and Mike Rich ("Finding Forrester") as well as to Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides ("Middlesex").

For many years, Nicholl also made significant contributions to the Motion Picture and Television Fund and to the Braille Institute.

At the time of her death, Nicholl lived in Santa Barbara. She is survived by her nieces Angela Haine and Janet Elliott, who both reside in England, and by her nephew Anthony Hardy, who lives in Australia.

Memorial services will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 30 at Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills.