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‘Nashville, ‘Mask’ Producer Was 92


Martin Starger, who shepherded Roots, Happy Days and Rich Man, Poor Man as the first president of ABC Entertainment before producing such films as Robert Altman’s Nashville and Peter Bogdanovich’s Mask, has died. He was 92.

Starger died Friday at his home in Los Angeles, his niece, New York-based casting director Ilene Starger, announced. “He was a brilliant, elegant, remarkable man and had wonderful taste in projects,” she noted.

As an executive producer, Starger worked on films including Stanley Donen’s Movie Movie (1978), Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata, The Muppet Movie (1979) and The Great Muppet Caper (1981), Mark Rydell’s On Golden Pond (1981), The Last Unicorn (1982) and Alan J. Pakula’s Sophie’s Choice (1982)

He received Tony nominations in 1987 and 1989 for producing the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Starlight Express and the comedy Lend Me a Tenor, respectively,

Starger was born on May 8, 1932, in the Bronx, New York. After graduating from City College, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953 and assigned to the Signal Corps motion picture division. In Honolulu, he wrote, directed, photographed and edited documentaries and features for television, for the U.S. Department of Defense and for newsreels.

After the Army, Starger joined the advertising agency BBDO in New York, then jumped to ABC as vice president of programs in 1969. Three years later, he was promoted to president of ABC Entertainment, a new position.

Under his stewardship, the third-place network found success with its Movie of the Week franchise, its acclaimed miniseries Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man, and such hit series as Marcus Welby, M.D. and Happy Days. Barry Diller and Michael Eisner were among the up-and-coming creative executives who worked for him.

While still at ABC, he championed Nashville (1975), which he executive produced with Jerry Weintraub, who had brought the project to him.

Starger went on to partner with British legend Lew Grade at Marble Arch Productions — they produced the Cher-starring Mask (1985) — and launched his own company, Marstar Productions. There, he produced or executive produced the telefilms Friendly Fire, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Merchant of Venice, The Elephant Man and Escape From Sobibor.

He got into Broadway by producing, with Grade, the 1976-78 comedy Sly Fox, written by Larry Gelbart, and Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, which premiered in 1981.

Starger divided his time between New York and L.A., his niece said.



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