You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Don Widener


Don Widener, writer-producer and close associate of Jack Lemmon who made award-winning TV docs about environmental and nuclear dangers and who fought a nearly decade-long battle with PG&E over one of his programs, died of lung cancer April 22 at a hospice in Henderson, Nev.. He was 73.

He worked for KNBC-TV Channel 4 in L.A. during the 1960s and earned two local Emmys and a DuPont award for investigative broadcast journalism.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. initiated an eight-year court fight over his 1971 doc “Powers That Be.” The utility claimed Widener doctored a filmed interview with a power plant engineer. Widener countersued for libel. A jury awarded Widener $7.75 million in damages, but a judge voided that ruling, and eventually PG&E paid Widener $475,000 in 1979, but the doc was never shown after its one local airing.

Widener also had a close association with actor Lemmon, who narrated “Powers That Be” as well as his doc “Plutonium: Element of Risk,” also about nuclear problems; and two on environmental concerns, “Timetable for Disaster” and “The Slow Guillotine.”

Widener in turn wrote “Lemmon,” an authorized biography of the film star, in 1975. He also wrote the 1970 nonfiction book “Timetable for Disaster,” about global environmental problems, and 1974 seriocomic novel, “N.U.K.E.E.” He also turned that book into a screenplay and wrote another one “The Tenth Option,” for Marlon Brando. Other screenplays included “Night of the Possum,” “Scuttle” and “The Ballad of Bigfoot.”

Native of Holdenville, Okla., studied journalism at Compton College and served in the Air Force during the Korean War, after which he wrote for newspapers and aerospace companies before joining KNBC in 1964, where he remained until 1970, at which point he became an independent film producer and writer.

He was also a founding member of the advisory board of the California Museum of Science and Industry.

Widower is survived by two sons.

More Scene

  • Kristen Stewart'JT LeRoy' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Kristen Stewart: 'Charlie's Angels' Reboot Is 'Woke' but Still 'Funny and Weird'

    “Charlie’s Angels” has made the jump to 2019. Kristen Stewart, who stars in the Elizabeth Banks-directed reboot as one of the Angels, says the classic ’70s franchise has been updated to modern times without losing its pulpy action. “At one point I think we said it was woke and grounded, and everyone was like, ‘Wait, [...]

  • Robert De Niro

    Robert De Niro Slams Trump Administration at Tribeca Opening Night

    The 18th annual Tribeca Film Festival opened with Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo” at the iconic uptown venue which performers and Harlem community members call “home.” “You can feel the history, the echo of the entertainers,” Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro said in a speech before the film. “In this administration, during [...]

  • Lilli Cooper Tootsie

    How the 'Tootsie' Musical Was Updated for the #MeToo Era

    Turning the beloved 1982 comedy “Tootsie” into a 21st century musical already seemed like a challenge when work on the adaptation began back in 2016. Then the #MeToo movement revved up — and the writers knew they couldn’t tell Dorothy’s story for a modern audience without it. “It’s different than it was when the movie [...]

  • Ralph Fiennes attends a special screening

    Ralph Fiennes on Directing Rudolf Nureyev Biopic: 'It's Been a Very, Very Long Road'

    Ralph Fiennes celebrated his latest directorial outing, “The White Crow,” on Monday night in New York City. The Sony Pictures Classics film tells the story of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. “It’s been a very, very long road. We were mad. We were mad to take on this subject of Rudolf Nureyev. Mad. Completely mad,” Fiennes [...]

  • Taylor Swift Time 100 Performance

    Watch Taylor Swift's Time 100 Gala Performance and Speech

    Just two nights out from Taylor Swift D-day spring 2019 — i.e., Thursday’s release of a new single — Swift made an appearance Tuesday at the Time 100 event in New York, where she did not let loose with any spoiler performances of new music but did sing a few fan favorites, including “Style,” “Delicate,” and [...]

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million Monday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content