Charles “Chuck” Fries, the longtime film and television producer who helped introduce the TV movie concept and shepherded films including “Cat People,” died on Thursday. He was 92.
Over his six-decade-plus career, he participated in the production of more than 5,000 episodes of television, 140 television movies and mini-series, and more than 40 theatrical films.
Fries oversaw feature film production for Columbia Pictures, which produced movies during his time at the studio, including “Five Easy Pieces,” “Easy Rider,” “Getting Straight,” “The Horseman” and “Castle Keep.”
He pioneered the television movie while at Metromedia Productions in the 1970s, then launched his own company, Fries Entertainment. Fries Entertainment produced issue-oriented movies like “The Neon Empire,” “Small Sacrifices,” “The Martian Chronicles” and the Emmy-winning “LBJ” with Randy Quaid and Patti Lupone. He served as executive producer on “The Amazing Spider-Man” TV series that ran from 1977 to 1979. More recently, he had an executive producer credit on both the “Flowers in the Attic” and “Petals on the Wind” movies.
He was a producer on theatrical films, including “Cat People,” “Out of Bounds” and “Troop Beverly Hills,” based on his wife Ava’s experience.
Born in Cincinnati, Fries graduated Ohio State University and started out at Ziv Television. He moved to Screen Gems in 1960, where he was involved in the production of shows including “Route 66,” “Bewitched,” “Hazel,” “The Monkees” and “Father Knows Best.”
His memoir, “Chuck Fries: Godfather of the Television Movie, A History of Television,” was published in 2013.
A lifetime member of the Producers Guild and recipient of its lifetime achievement award, he also served as chair of the American Film Institute and in leadership roles at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Fries served five terms as chair of the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors.
He is survived by his wife, Ava, seven children: Charles M. Fries (Jonna), Suzanne Fries-Hostka, Chris Fries (Heather), Dyanne Fries, Mike Fries (Michelle), Alice Fries, and Jon Fries (Lena), as well as step-daughter Diane Sherry Case. He is also survived by 22 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the Caucus Foundation, which is dedicated to expanding diversity in the entertainment industry with scholarship support, financial grants and mentoring for the next generation of producers, writers and directors.