Father Ellwood “Bud” Kieser, a priest of 44 years and six-time Emmy winner whose influence was deeply felt within the Hollywood community, died Saturday of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 71.
Kieser constantly used the media to preach the gospel through his company, Paulist Prods., which he founded in 1968.
The funeral will be held today at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood. Burial services will be on Saturday at Holy Cross Memorial Park in Culver City at 11 a.m.
Through numerous exec producing jobs on various TV shows, feature films and telepics, Kieser had garnered, along with his Emmys, a Christopher award; the Imogen Award of the National Conference of Christians & Jews; and the Gabriel Award. Last year, he was honored with the Board of Directors Award from CIMA (Catholics in Media Associates).
The 6-foot-7 Kieser, known in Hollywood circles as a “gentle giant,” founded the Humanitas Prize in 1974. The award, which encourages the communication of human values through entertainment writing and is endowed by the entertainment industry, gives $130,000 each year to writers of TV programs and films who succeed in enriching the lives of their audiences.
“Through the Humanitas Prize and throughout all of his life’s work, Father Kieser encouraged writers to illuminate the human condition, to inspire people to the greatness that is within them, and to be the best writers they can be,” WGA president John Wells said. “He was a unique and very positive influence on the writing community, and I — along with the rest of the industry — will miss him.”
It was appropriate for Kieser to found the Humanitas Prize, as the works he produced for film and TV were uplifting and meaningful. In 32 years of working through his company, Kieser created and exec produced a weekly dramatic anthology series, “Insight,” for which he called upon the talents of Martin Sheen, Ron Howard and the late Walter Matthau, among others, to appear in the show, which ran for a total of 23 years.
Also for TV, Kieser exec produced an ABC special, “The Fourth Wiseman,” in 1985, which starred Sheen, Alan Arkin and Eileen Brennan. In 1986, ABC aired his “We Are the Children,” with Ted Danson and Ally Sheedy, about famine-stricken Ethiopia.
He exec produced “Romero,” a feature based on the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador that starred the late Raul Julia; produced “Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story,” starring Moira Kelly and Martin Sheen; and exec produced “The Family Specials,” which explored the moral dilemmas of teens and starred Emilio Estevez, Joan Chen and John Amos.
Born in Philadelphia in 1929, Kieser graduated from the city’s La Salle U. in 1950, joining the Paulist Fathers that same year. He received his Ph.D. in theology of communications from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and received two Honorary Doctors of Letters from Catholic U. as well as from his alma mater.
Kieser taught at UCLA, USC and Mount St. Mary’s. He also gave workshops in India in 1979, and assisted in famine relief work in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.
He is survived by a sister, two brothers and 21 nieces and nephews.
There will be an industry memorial for Kieser at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 3 at the Writers Guild of America West Theater, 135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills.
In lieu of flowers, family suggests donations to the Human Family Educational & Cultural Institute (Humanitas Prize) at (310) 454-0688.