Comedy writer, producer and director Aaron Ruben, known for his work on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Sanford and Son,” died Saturday in Beverly Hills from complications of pneumonia. He was 95. Foreign distribution pioneer Norman Katz, one of the founders of the American Film Market and 20-year prexy of Warner Bros. Intl., died Jan. 25 in Santa Monica. He was 90.
Ruben was producer of “The Andy Griffith Show” for the first five seasons, from 1960-65, also writing and directing some episodes. He created and produced the spinoff “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” which ran from 1964-70.
Ruben started his career as a comedy writer for radio programs featuring stars such as Milton Berle, Dinah Shore and George Burns and began directing for early TV comedies such as “The Phil Silvers Show.”
He was the initial producer on “Sanford and Son,” writing many early episodes. His other credits include Carl Reiner’s 1969 film “The Comic,” which he co-wrote and co-produced, and TV series “The Headmaster” and “CPO Sharkey.”
In 2003, the Writers Guild honored Ruben with the Valentine Davies award for advocacy work with troubled children. Ruben served as a court-appointed special advocate representing abused and abandoned children in juvenile court, and volunteered for the Hospice Program at Cedars-Sinai.
“I have this fantasy,” he told Daily Variety in 2003, “that once a year St. Peter appears before God and they go over the list of people that they’re ready to take and my name comes up. God says, ‘Is he still doing that work with the kids? Ah, let him stick around a little longer.'”
He is survived by his wife, actress Maureen Arthur; two sons; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Born in Scranton, Pa., Katz served in Europe during WWII, specializing in military intelligence. After the war, he stayed on in Paris, where he served as exec VP at Discina Intl. Films, distributing films by Jean Cocteau and Jacques Tati.
In 1953, he moved to Warner Bros. Intl., where he spent 20 years, ending as prexy of the studio’s international operations. Katz segued to the independent arena with companies including Cinema Arts and American Cinema. While selling American films to international territories through his Norkat Co., he became founding member of the American Film Marketing Assn., which he chaired from 1985-87.
The market was the first major film sales event in the U.S., beginning as a response to pricey European bazaars such as Cannes and Mifed.
A fixture at Cannes, Katz attended some 50 consecutive festivals starting with its founding in 1946. “I just don’t think it is as much fun as it used to be,” he told the L.A. Times in 1991. Reminiscing over the 1961 party for Greek pic “Never on Sunday,” he recalled, “They played Greek music, drank wine and danced. It was just a great, great party, and we must have destroyed 100,000 dishes throwing them against the wall the way the Greeks do.”
Katz was a longtime board member of the American Film Marketing Assn., as well as founder-chairman of the American Film Export Assn. and a board member of the Motion Picture Export Assn. while at Warner Bros. He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
He is survived by his wife, Dorothea; five children; 14 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Donations may be made to Opica Adult Day Services and Counseling Center, Opica.org.
Veteran television writer Barry Blitzer, who wrote for TV shows such as “Get Smart” and “The Flintstones,” died Jan. 27 in Santa Monica from complications after abdominal surgery. He was 80.
Blitzer shared a Writers Guild nomination in 1968 for “Get Smart” with co-writer and frequent collaborator Raymond Brenner. He wrote for comedies including “The Love Boat,” “Too Close for Comfort,” “McHale’s Navy” and “Good Times.”
Blitzer also wrote episodes of Hanna-Barbera cartoons “The Jetsons,” and “Top Cat,” as well as children’s programs including “Land of the Lost.”
He was also the last surviving member of the group of writers who shared a 1956 comedy writing Emmy for “The Phil Silvers Show” (for the episode “You’ll Never Get Rich”).
A Writers Guild of America West,member since 1961, Blitzer attended the U. of Georgia and served in the Army during the Korean War.
Blitzer participated in many WGA events and was active in campaigning for equal rights for animation writers. He was also a guest lecturer at the U. of Texas in Austin and wrote a longtime humor column for the Palisadean Post.
He is survived by his wife, Elsie, a daughter and a sister.
Donations may be made to the Writers Guild Foundation.