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Del Reisman, a prolific writer for television and a former president of the Writers Guild of America West, died Saturday in Los Angeles of cardiac arrest after a brief illness. He was 86.
A WGAW member since 1965, Reisman remained a constant and vital presence at WGAW’s L.A. headquarters and at guild member and industry events, influencing, impacting and interacting with writers-members through his years of creative work, thoughtful instruction and tireless service.
Reisman served as WGAW president from 1991-93, was the guild’s vp from 1987-91 and was a member of the board of directors from 1979-87. He chaired three consecutive WGA negotiating committees during talks with producers.
Over the years, Reisman also served as chairman or member of more than 20 WGAW committees and was a member of the board of trustees of the Writers Guild Foundation from 1994-2005 and 2007 to the present.
Reisman was awarded the WGAW’s Morgan Cox Award in 1999, given to those guild members “whose vital ideas, continuing efforts and personal sacrifice best exemplify the ideal of service to the guild.”
“Del was a wonderful man, a staunch defender of writers and a tremendous friend whose many years of selfless service to the guild have improved working lives for thousands of writers and their families. He will be missed,” WGAW president John Wells said.
Reisman wrote for such series as Peyton Place, Cagney & Lacey, Charlie’s Angels, Magnum, P.I., Scarecrow & Mrs. King, The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, Little House on the Prairie, Lou Grant, The Six Million Dollar Man, Flamingo Road, The Blue Knight, Banacek, Harry O, Kung Fu, Ghost Story, Airwolf and The Yellow Rose. His film credits include 1974’s The Take (co-written with Franklin Coen).
After attending Hollywood High, Reisman graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in English/Journalism. During World War II, he served with the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1942-45 and was trained as a bombardier on the B-17 Flying Fortress. He flew 35 combat missions, mostly over Northern Europe, and achieved the rank of First Lieutenant.
After returning to the States, Reisman — whose mother Rose Judell worked for years in the studio system as an executive assistant and script typist — launched his writing career on live television in the 1950s. He served on such shows as NBC Matinee Theater and then as story editor for the acclaimed Playhouse 90, on which he worked with producer Martin Manulis; writers Rod Serling, David Shaw, and Robert Alan Aurthur; and such directors as John Frankenheimer, George Roy Hill, Arthur Penn and Arthur Hiller. Later, he served as story editor for the original Twilight Zone series.
In his later years, Reisman served as a faculty member at the American Film Institute, teaching screenwriting in AFI’s Feature Film and Television Development Program for more than a decade. He was a longtime, active member of the Library of Congress’ National Film Preservation Board, helping to preserve and restore some of our nation’s most important film treasures.
“Over the past 10 years, our Fellows have benefited from Del’s exceptional teaching, support and compassion as they prepare to dive into the scary Hollywood waters,” AFI dean Robert Mandel said. “Del was much beloved and he will be dearly missed.”
In May, Reisman volunteered to participate in the Writers Guild Foundation’s inaugural Veteran Writers Workshop, instructing and mentoring Army, Air Force and Navy war veterans and service personnel in the craft of writing.
Reisman is survived by his niece, Karen Schneider, and half-sister Penny Chidgey, who resides in Australia.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in Reisman’s name to the Writers Guild Foundation. Details of a WGAW-hosted memorial service are pending.
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