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Vincenzo Labella, Writer-Producer of ‘Marco Polo,’ Dies at 93

Vincenzo Labella, who wrote and produced the Emmy-winning miniseries “Marco Polo” and produced the miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth,’ died in Los Angeles on July 28. He was 93.

Labella was born in Vatican City, where his father was the dean of the Pontifical Halls. Having spent his childhood with access to the Apostolic Library of the Vatican, he started out as a historian, journalist and documentarian.

Producer Dino De Laurentiis asked him to serve as advisor on the 1961 film “Barabbas,” a job which led to many other history-based projects.

Franco Zeffirelli directed the 1977 NBC mini “Jesus of Nazareth,” which starred Robert Powell, Laurence Olivier, Anne Bancroft and Christopher Plummer, and was Emmy-nommed as outstanding special drama.

He also produced “Moses the Lawgiver,” starring Burt Lancaster, which started as a six-hour series and was also released as a feature film.

NBC’s 1982 “Marco Polo” was the first Western production to film in the Forbidden City and Ming Tombs in China. It starred Burt Lancaster, John Gielgud and John Houseman. Also for NBC, he wrote and produced “A.D. Anno Domini” in 1985.

Labella also wrote a film about Pope John XXIII with Ermanno Olmi, which won the Golden Rudder at the Venice Film Festival. He co-produced “A Man from a Far Country” on the life of Pope John Paul II, and wrote a biography of Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael, “A Season of Giants,” which he adapted into a special for TNT.

Most recently he was working on a series of documentaries entitled “The Wonders of the Vatican Library.”

He is survived by his wife Sue, three daughters, and nine grandchildren.

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