Ron Gilbert, Producer and Partner in David Susskind's Talent Associates, Dies at 87

RON GILBERT
Courtesy of MPRM Communications

Ron Gilbert

The Emmy nominee worked on projects including 'Get Smart,' 'Straw Dogs' and 'Eleanor and Franklin' during his long career.

Ron Gilbert, an Emmy-nominated producer and partner with David Susskind in the powerhouse independent production company Talent Associates, died Friday of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles, a family spokesman said. He was 87.

Gilbert joined Talent Associates in the early 1960s, and during his stay there the company produced such groundbreaking TV series as Get Smart, East Side/West Side and N.Y.P.D.; features including Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971), Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) and Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976); and such miniseries as 1973's The Glass Menagerie, starring Katharine Hepburn, and 1976's Eleanor and Franklin, starring Edward Herrmann and Jane Alexander.

In the 2010 book David Susskind: A Televised Life, author and former THR writer Stephen Battaglio describes Gilbert as "the guy who watched Susskind's back on financial matters."

Talent Associates was sold to Time Inc. in 1977, and the new entity became Time-Life Films, which produced Fort Apache, the Bronx (1981) and other projects.

In the 1980s and '90s, Gilbert produced dozens of telefilms and miniseries with Hill/Mandelker Productions and Leonard Hill Films, including 1985's The Long Hot Summer, for which he received his Emmy nom. He last produced and financed, with son Brad Gilbert, a 2008 feature based on Tennessee Williams' The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Evans, at NBC.

Born in Brooklyn in 1933, Gilbert enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1953 and served as a quartermaster on the SS Mariposa. He went on to graduate from NYU, and his first production at Talent Associates was James Agee's All the Way Home (1963), starring Jean Simmons and Robert Preston.

Susskind had founded New York-based Talent Associates in the 1950s, and he was eventually joined by Gilbert, Daniel Melnick and Leonard Stern as partners.

Survivors include Gilbert's wife, Rose, sons Brad, Adam and Steven, and four grandchildren. Donations in his memory can be made to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.