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Joel Freeman, ‘Shaft,’ ‘Love at First Bite’ Producer, Dies at 95

Joel Freeman, producer of more than 100 films including “Shaft” and “Love at First Bite,” died on Jan. 21. He was 95.

Freeman died at his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., after a long battle with lung cancer and Alzheimer’s.

He received the 1971 NAACP Image Award for “Shaft” as producer of the year. He was also a member of the Directors Guild, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and a board member of the Producers Guild of America for 30 years, from whom he received a lifetime membership award.

Freeman began his career at 19 as a messenger at MGM, working his way up to become an associate producer at the studio. After working as a production supervisor, studio head Jack Warner asked Freeman to help run the production of “Camelot,” making Freeman one of the top three executive positions at the studio until Warner sold the company. 

Subsequently, Freeman worked with Francis Ford Coppola on “Finian’s Rainbow” and then executive-produced the Oscar-nominated classic “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.”

Among his other producing credits also include Chuck Norris’s “The Octagon” and “Lonelyhearts,” and several TV series including “The Californians” and “Highway Patrol.”

The producer also spent three years in the Air Force during World War II, two with the First Motion Picture Unit (AAF) where he was script supervisor and assistant director on training films.

He is survived by his wife, Betty; sons Josh and Jeff; and stepchildren, Daniel and Kurina.

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