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TV vet Huggins dies at 87

Roy Huggins, much-honored writer, creator and producer of major multiple TV series and a pioneer of television drama credited with moving television into filmed episodes, died Wednesday April 3 of natural causes in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 87.

Among Huggins’ most memorable television series — which often featured anti-heroes and atypical characters — were “The Fugitive,” starring David Jansen as well as “The Rockford Files” and “Maverick,” both starring James Garner. “The Fugitive” spawned the 1993 Academy Award-winning hit film starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones.

Huggins joined Warner Bros. in its early efforts to get into the booming television business, which at the time was entirely live-to-air. Huggins is often credited as the “father of filmed television,” with such pioneering series as “Cheyenne,” “Colt 45,” “77 Sunset Strip” and a number of other highly successful detective series.

In 1962, he joined Universal Television in what would become a dynamic alliance lasting more than 15 years. He served as executive producer on the TV series “The Virginian” in its first year and launched it on a nine-year run. Huggins was the creative force behind many more series including “Run For Your Life,” starring Ben Gazarra, and “Alias Smith and Jones.”

Born in Littel, Wash., Huggins graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude from UCLA and began work on his Ph.D. in political science but was interrupted by World War II service. As a civilian employee in wartime government work, he taught himself to write by copying in longhand Raymond Chandler’s “Farewell, My Lovely.”

Huggins’ first book, “The Doubletake” (1946) established him as a writer of style, substance and great commercial appeal; tome was ultimately serialized, along with “Too Late for Tears” (1947), in “The Saturday Evening Post.”

After the war and riding the success of his books and magazine fiction, he was signed to a contract at Columbia Pictures as a writer and director of feature films. “Too Late for Tears” was released as a feature film in 1949, and Huggins directed his own script of “Hangman’s Knot,” 1952 Western starring Randolph Scott and Donna Reed.

Also praised as a mentor to many, he formed an association with talented young writer-producer Stephen Cannell while at Universal. This led to their co-creating and producing both “The Rockford Files” and “Baretta.” In the summer of 1985, Cannell brought Huggins out of retirement to take over a new series, “Hunter,” and yet another success resulted.

During Huggins’ 50-year career in the entertainment industry, he authored some 350 scripts for television and film, many of which were credited under the pseudonym “John Thomas James” after the names of three of his sons.

He was a chancellor’s associate and longtime supporter of television and film studies at UCLA.

Huggins is survived by his wife of 50 years, former actress Adele Mara; their three sons; a son and daughter from his first marriage; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at St. Martin of Tours, 11967 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles.

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