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Joel Rapp, who wrote for sitcoms including The Donna Reed Show, McHale’s Navy and Gilligan’s Island, died Wednesday in his Beverly Hills home, a publicist announced. He was 87.
In collaboration with Roger Corman, Rapp directed the features High School Big Shot (1959) and Battle of Blood Island (1960) and produced the Fabian-starring The Wild Racers (1968). He also worked in comedy development in the ’60s as a vice president for Universal Pictures.
Known as “Mr. Mother Earth, Plant Man to the Stars,” Rapp spent 11 years with Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford as the gardener on their morning TV program and wrote 14 books on indoor gardening and cooking. He also spent more than a decade dispensing gardening advice on WABC radio in New York.
Joel Malcolm Rapp was born in New York on May 33, 1934, and raised in Beverly Hills. His father, Philip Rapp, created the Baby Snooks character for Fanny Brice for a CBS radio show and the sketch comedy series The Bickersons for NBC radio. Brice was his godmother and comedian Eddie Cantor his godfather.
Rapp landed his first writing credit on a 1954 episode of CBS’ Topper, starring Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys, then wrote for such shows as Highway Patrol, Lassie, Colt .45 and M Squad before the end of the decade.
His writing résumé also included installments of The Jim Backus Show, Peter Loves Mary, The Patty Duke Show, The Joey Bishop Show, Green Acres, The Lucy Show, The Flying Nun and Bewitched.
He quit his job at Universal in 1969 to go into the indoor plant business.
Survivors include his wife of 36 years, Susan Stoller Rapp; daughters Lisa and Danielle; son-in-law Michael; grandchildren Hannah and Sophie, and brother Paul Rapp, a onetime producer and unit production manager.
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