‘Fritz the Cat’ producer Krantz dies

New York native was also a counselor Producer

Producer Steve Krantz died Thursday in Los Angeles from complications of pneumonia. He was 83.

Krantz, husband of author Judith Krantz, produced several of her novels for television, including “Scruples,” “Princess Daisy,” “Mistral’s Daughter,” “Dazzle,” “I’ll Take Manhattan” and “Till We Meet Again.” He also produced landmark adult feature toon “Fritz the Cat.”

Krantz started as a writer-producer in the early days of television, penning for Arthur Godfrey, Milton Berle and Kate Smith. He then became exec producer for Steve Allen’s “The Tonight Show.”

Born in New York, he graduated from Columbia College and then served in the Army.

After “The Tonight Show,” Krantz joined Columbia Pictures Television as head of creative development, later becoming head of international marketing and production. Under his leadership, the company produced sitcoms “Dennis the Menace,” “Hazel” and “Bewitched.”

Krantz left Columbia to start his own company in 1960, acquiring rights to “The Marvel Superheroes.” The success of the Marvel series, which ran for more than 200 episodes, led to the launch of his own animation studio, with branches in Los Angeles, Mexico and New York.

Superheroes gave way to randy felines with “Fritz the Cat,” directed by Ralph Bakshi and written by Bakshi and Robert Crumb. The X-rated toon became the first independent animated film to gross more than $100 million.

Krantz followed that with “Heavy Traffic” and “The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat,” an entry at the Cannes Film Festival.

Krantz went on to produce features including “Which Way Is Up?” with Richard Pryor and “Cooley High,” which later became the ABC sitcom “What’s Happening?”

In the 1970s, Krantz returned to TV, producing miniseries adapted from his wife’s novels as well as TV pics including “Children of the Dark” and “Deadly Matrimony.”

After Krantz retired from the TV biz, he became a mental health counselor. He was a member of the board of the 1736 Family Crisis Center and was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson to the board of the California Council for Mental Health Planning. He also was a board member of Planned Parenthood and president of the Independent Producers Assn.

He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Television Academy.

He is survived by his wife; two sons, Nicholas and “24” producer Tony; two grandchildren; and a sister.

Donations may be made to the United Jewish Fund.

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