Martin Manulis, the television producer who worked with John Frankenheimer, Arthur Penn, Rod Serling and George Roy Hill early on in their careers as the creator of CBS’ “Playhouse 90,” has died. He was 92.
Manulis died Friday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, according to his son, John Bard Manulis.
Manulis was sole producer on more than 60 installments of “Playhouse 90,” the live dramatic-anthology series that yielded such smallscreen landmarks as “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” “The Comedian” and “The Days of Wine and Roses.”
Frankenheimer was one of three staff directors for the series, which bowed in October 1956 with the Serling-penned, Frankenheimer-directed nuclear thriller “Forbidden Area,” starring Charlton Heston and Tab Hunter. Manulis also produced “The Miracle Worker,” directed by Penn and written by William Gibson, and “The Eighty Yard Run,” starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, in the early years of the series.
“Playhouse 90” was a prestige effort by the Eye network from the start, launched with much fanfare and, as noted in Daily Variety, a budget of more than $150,000 for the first installment. Skein raked in five Emmy awards for its first season, including program of the year honors for “Requiem.”
After three years at the helm of “Playhouse,” Manulis tired of the strain of producing live TV and became head of production at 20th Century Fox Television in 1958. At the studio, he oversaw lighter fare such as “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” the CBS sitcom starring Dwayne Hickman and Bob Denver.
In the early 1960s, Manulis moved into film, bringing to the bigscreen a Blake Edwards-helmed rendition of “The Days of Wine and Roses,” starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. His other pic credits include 1964’s “Dear Heart,” 1967’s “Luv” and 1968’s “Duffy.”
After forming his own production shingle, Manulis stayed active in TV in the 1970s and ‘80s as the producer or exec producer of such skeins and telepics as “James at 15,” “The Day Christ Died,” “The Fighter,” “Chiefs” and “Space.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1915, Manulis graduated from Columbia U. and worked as a stage director before and after WWII. He moved into television in the medium’s infancy as a producer on dramatic anthology series including “Studio One,” “Climax!” and “Suspense.” Manulis produced a series of specials for CBS, “The Best of Broadway,” in the 1954-55 season before launching “Playhouse 90.”
In addition to his son, Manulis is survived by daughters Laurie Harmon and Karen Manulis Cohen. His wife of 44 years, actress Katherine Bard, died in 1983.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)