Television producer Lillian Gallo, perhaps best known for critically acclaimed 1975 telepic “Hustling,” based on Gail Sheehy’s book on prostitution in America, died June 6 at the Motion Picture and Television Home in Woodland Hills, Calif., of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 84.
Gallo began in the theater. She was film and theater writer-director George Axelrod’s assistant on his 1955 Broadway production of “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter,” starring Jayne Mansfield and Walter Matthau, and then worked on other Broadway shows, including “Auntie Mame,” with Rosalind Russell, and “Mr. Wonderful,” with Sammy Davis Jr.
In Hollywood, Gallo worked with “Mr. Wonderful” director Jack Donahue on TV’s “The Frank Sinatra Show,” beginning her working relationship with producer William Self, who became her mentor. Gallo worked closely with Self on TV series at 20th Century Fox including “Peyton Place,” “Batman” and “Julia.”
After her years at Fox, Gallo worked at ABC with Barry Diller, who made her the director of movies of the weekend. She supervised 22 movies for the network, including Steven Spielberg’s “Duel.” Diller gave Gallo her first shot at producing with 1972’s “Haunts of the Very Rich,” starring Cloris Leachman and Ed Asner.
Gallo eventually made a production deal at MTM Enterprises. There she developed her own projects and championed up-and-coming talents such as James L. Brooks and Gary David Goldberg.
Gallo’s productions often featured strong female characters and dealt with social issues. “Hustling,” penned by Fay Kanin and starring Lee Remick and Jill Clayburgh, frankly depicted prostitution in New York City; “Fun and Games,” starring Valerie Harper, examined workplace sexual harassment. “The Stranger Who Looks Like Me” concerned adoptees searching for their biological roots.
Gallo also presented the romantic farce “Playmates,” which starred Alan Alda and Connie Stevens; NBC’s hit miniseries “Princess Daisy,” and thriller “The Lookalike.”
Gallo was born Lillian Drazek to Polish immigrants and grew up in Springfield, Mass., where as children she and her sister sang on the radio as the Drazek Sisters.
After graduating from the U. of Michigan in 1949 with a degree in journalism, Gallo was selected by the Marine Corps as one of 50 college graduates to study under its new program, the Women Officers Training Class, at Quantico, Va. Gallo earned the rank of captain and served in the Pentagon under assistant secretary of Defense Anna M. Rosenberg.
Gallo’s husband, actor Lew Gallo, died in 2000. She is survived by a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, June 19, at 10 a.m. at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills.