Film and TV writer-producer William Sackheim died Dec. 1 in Beverly Hills of a degenerative brain disease. He was 84.
A two-time Emmy Award winner whose television career spanned the 1950s through the ’90s, Sackheim won Emmys for producing an episode of “The Alcoa/Goodyear Theater” (1959) and telepic “The Law” (1975).
Sackheim produced numerous early TV movies, including “The Impatient Heart,” starring Carrie Snodgress; “The Neon Ceiling,” starring Gig Young and Lee Grant; “A Clear and Present Danger,” with Hal Holbrook; and “The Harness,” starring Lorne Greene.
His film credits include co-producing “The In-Laws,” “Pacific Heights” and “The Hard Way”; co-writing the first Rambo movie, “First Blood”; and producing and co-writing the story for “The Competition.”
Sackheim had a eye for spotting talent. In the mid-’60s, he gambled on a young Sally Field to star in the “Gidget” series and went on to produce “The Flying Nun” with Field.
He also gave Judd Hirsch his first part in TV movie “The Law.” Hirsch went on to star in the series “Delvecchio,” a 1976-77 police drama, which Sackheim exec produced.
While producing “Night Gallery,” the 1969 pilot for the Rod Serling TV series, Sackheim saw a short film titled “Amblin'” and hired its young maker, Steven Spielberg, to direct Joan Crawford in one of the pilot’s three stories.
Sackheim also plucked future director-producer John Badham out of the casting department at Universal in 1968 to become his personal assistant. As exec producer of “The Senator,” the 1970-71 political drama starring Holbrook, Sackheim gave Badham his first assignment as a director.
He was particularly close to Steven Bochco, who worked with Sackheim as the producer of “Delvecchio” and saw him as a writing mentor.
Born in Gloversville, N.Y., Sackheim moved to Beverly Hills with his family as a child. A Beverly Hills High School graduate, he served in the Army in New Guinea during World War II.
While in the service, he freelanced as a writer for “Batman” comicbooks. After the war, he got a job working in the music department at Republic Pictures. He launched his screenwriting career in the B unit at Columbia Pictures.
In 1995, the Museum of Television & Radio held a tribute to Sackheim in Los Angeles.
Sackheim is survived by his wife of 54 years, JoAnne; two sons, Daniel, a producer and Emmy-winning TV director, and Drew, a fashion photographer; and two grandchildren.