Harry Ackerman, 78, who was involved in the production of some of television’s popular sitcom series, including “I Love Lucy,” “Bewitched” and “Leave It To Beaver,” died Feb. 3 in Burbank, Calif., of pulmonary failure.
Last November, Ackerman, an indie producer at the time of his death, was honored as member of the year by the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors (he was a member of that organization’s steering committee and help supervise publication of the Caucus Quarterly).
Ackerman was cited for his extensive tv work. He was executive producer of network tv series, including “Hazel,” “The Farmer’s Daughter,” “The Flying Nun,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Gidget” and “Dennis The Menace,” in addition to “Bewitched.”
All of those were done under the banner of Screen Gems, where Ackerman worked for 15 years, most of the time as head of production, until he left in 1973.
Prior to joining Screen Gems, he developed “Bachelor Father” and “Leave It To Beaver.”
Though known as “the dean of television comedy,” Ackerman was also exec producer of such dramatic classics as “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial”; “The Day Lincoln Was Shot,” starring Jack Lemmon and Raymond Massey; “Twentieth Century,” starring Orson Welles and Betty Grable; and “Blithe Spirit,” starring Noel Coward, Lauren Bacall and Mildred Natwick.
Other Ackerman comedy series were “My Sister Eileen,” “Our Man Higgins,” “Wackiest Ship In The Army,” “Occasional Wife” and “Love On A Rooftop.”
Ackerman started his television career at CBS, where he was initially exec producer in New York for the network and subsequently became v.p. in charge of CBS Programs in Hollywood.
While at CBS, Ackerman was responsible for the development of “I Love Lucy” and “Our Miss Brooks.” He helped develop “Gunsmoke” as a radio series, and after was instrumental in transforming it into a longrunning, toprated tv series.
Ackerman was CBS-TV west coast program v.p. from 1948 to 958.
Ackerman, who attended Dartmouth College as a theater arts major, started out as a writer but segued into being a radio performer, appearing as the comic poet Wilbur W. Willoughby Jr.
He joined the Young & Rubicam ad agency in 1938, becoming v.p. of program operations in 1946.
After leaving Screen Gems, Ackerman formed Harry Ackerman Prods, as an indie. He immediately signed an exclusive deal with Paramount TV to create tv series, specials and feature films on a co-production basis, and went to work on network development for Hanna-Barbera Prods.
Among his many achievements, Ackerman was national president of Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for two terms and has had a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame since 1985.
Survived by his wife, actress Elinor Donahue, one of the stars of the “Father Knows Best” series, and six children.