Stan Margulies, who produced two of the most watched miniseries in television history, “Roots” and “The Thorn Birds,” died Feb. 27 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center following a bout with cancer. He was 80.
The producer garnered three Emmy awards during his career — the first for the 1977 miniseries “Roots,” and the second for 1979s “Roots: The Next Generations.” The series chronicled the family of the late author Alex B. Haley from slavery to present times.
In 1991, Margulies won his third Emmy for “Separate but Equal,” which starred Sidney Poitier in a docudrama about the early career of Thurgood Marshall, the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice.
“He was a unique individual,” Poitier said of Margulies. “We will probably not see his like again.”
Margulies helped produce the 1973 film documentary “Visions of Eight,” about the 1972 Olympics. It won a Golden Globe for best documentary.
In 1996, the American Film Institute honored him with its annual Producer of the Year Award, presented for “a distinguished, career-long contribution to the world of television and entertainment.”
Born in New York City, Margulies attended New York U. before serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps and the infantry during World War II. He wrote for several military newspapers including Yank, and later worked as a reporter in Salt Lake City.
Margulies became a publicist at RKO Pictures and was eventually hired by Kirk Douglas to work for his Bryna Prods., which led to an associate producer’s job on “Spartacus” in 1960.
“He was bright, but very modest,” Douglas said. “It didn’t surprise me that he became such a great producer.”
In addition to his TV work, he produced nine films for theatrical release, including “Forty Pounds of Trouble,” “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
His last production was the TV movie “Dash and Lilly,” about mystery writer Dashiell Hammett. At the time of his death, Margulies was working on a television biography of labor leader A. Philip Randolph.
Margulies is survived by his wife, Ferne; her two children, Michael Kadish and Ilene Sturrock; and his two children, Lee Margulies and Lisa Chadwick; as well as four grandchildren.