Former Producer, Fox TV Exec William Self Dies

William Self

William Self and Angie Dickinson

William Self, a Hollywood actor turned producer and executive who transformed 20th Century Fox into a top television supplier of the 1960s, died Monday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack four days earlier. He was 89.

Self spent 15 years at Fox, where he spearheaded such groundbreaking series as Peyton Place, the first primetime soap opera; Batman, the first series based on a comic book to air in primetime; Julia, the first weekly series to star an African-American woman; and the ratings juggernaut M*A*S*H.

He also produced the pilot for The Twilight Zone in the late 1950s during the first of his two stints at CBS, and his company produced The Shootist (1976), John Wayne's final film.

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Self appeared as an actor in more than two dozen movies from 1949-53, including I Was a Male War Bride (1949), Operation Pacific (1951), The Thing From Another World (1951) and Pat and Mike (1952). Along the way, he forged a friendship with Spencer Tracy.

Self then segued to the other side of the camera and produced more than 200 episodes of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars as well as The Frank Sinatra Show in 1957. He later joined CBS as a program executive, then moved to Fox.

Other notable Fox series under his watch were Daniel Boone, Twelve O'Clock High, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, The Green Hornet, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, Land of the Giants and Room 222.

Self was eventually named president of 20th Century Fox Television and then vp of 20th Century Fox Film Corp.

He exited Fox in 1975 to partner with Mike Frankovich. Their short-lived arrangement produced The Shootist as well as From Noon Till Three (1976), starring Charles Bronson.

A return to CBS in 1977 saw Self supervising productions like The Corn Is Green, starring Katharine Hepburn; All Quiet on the Western Front starring Ernest Borgnine and Richard Thomas; and The Blue and the Gray (1982), a Civil War miniseries that collected four Emmy nominations.

Later, as president of CBS Theatrical Film Production, Self supervised the making of such pics as Arthur Penn's Target (1985).

In the 1990s, Self partnered with Glenn Close to produce three telefilms for Hallmark: Sarah, Plain and Tall; Skylark; and Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End, all starring Close and Christopher Walken.

Survivors include his daughter Barbara; son Edwin; sister Jean; four grandchildren; and six great grandchildren.