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Norman Twain, ‘Lean on Me’ Producer, Dies at 85

Norman Twain, best known for producing 1989’s Morgan Freeman-starrer “Lean On Me,” died Saturday morning, after a brief illness. He was 85.

Twain initially made his mark off-Broadway, producing Tennessee Williams’ “Garden District” and Maxwell Anderson’s “The Golden Six,” before debuting on Broadway to a critically lauded revival of John Osborne and Anthony Creighton’s “Epitaph for George Dillon.” Some of his other productions included “Bajour,” “Henry, Sweet Henry,” “The Lady of the Camellias,” and “The Apparition Theater of Prague.”

He had critical and commercial success with Nicol Williamson’s acclaimed “Hamlet” as well as “Nicol Williamson’s Late Show.”

After leaving New York, where he graduated from Columbia University, Twain moved to California and launched a film career in addition to his theater work.

His film career began with “Superman,” the television movie based on the Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical.

Twain also produced “Lean on Me” for Warner Bros. He created the idea and developed the script with screenwriter Michael Schiffer. The film, which was directed by John Avildsen, won the NAACP Image Award for best picture.

He subsequently created and developed the idea, and served as executive producer of the HBO film “Boycott,” starring Jeffrey Wright as Martin Luther King, Jr. Nominated as best television film by the American Film Institute, “Boycott,” which dramatized the 1955 Montgomery, Ala. boycott, also won a Peabody Award and the NAACP Image Award for best television film.

His most recent work included “Scar,” a 3D horror film; “Spinning Into Butter,” starring Sarah Jessica Parker; and the animated movie “My Dog Tulip,” based on the British novel by J.R. Ackerley.

At the time of his death, Twain was developing several film properties and was planning a return to Broadway with the play “The Coastline of England.”

He is survived by his wife, Deanna Deignan; his daughter Dena; his son-in-law Timothy Sims; and his granddaughters, Dylan and Isabelle.

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