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Eliott Lewis; Actor, Producer, Mystery Writer

May 26, 1990|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eliott Lewis, a popular radio actor and television producer who wrote mystery novels in his retirement years, has died. He was 72.

Lewis died Sunday of cardiac arrest in Gleneden Beach, Ore., where he lived.

Born in New York City on Nov. 28, 1917, the son of a printer and a journalist, Lewis considered a career in civil engineering.

But he was bitten by the acting bug and moved west, where he attended Los Angeles City College and landed an acting job at CBS radio station KHJ on the program "The Life of Simon Bolivar."

Lewis perhaps was best known for his radio role as the guitar-playing Frankie Remley on "The Phil Harris/Alice Faye Show."

His voice also gave life to characters on the radio shows "Adventures of Morse," "The Adventures of Nero Wolfe," "Hawk Larabee," "Voyage of the Scarlet Queen" and "The Casebook of Gregory Hood."

He also began directing, writing and producing for radio, working on "Broadway Is My Beat," "Pursuit," "Suspense" and, with his first wife, "Cathy and Elliott Lewis on Stage."

During World War II, Lewis worked with the Army's Armed Forces Radio Service, earning the rank of master sergeant and a Legion of Merit citation.

Lewis began his television career in 1954 as co-producer of the CBS series "Climax!" He also worked as producer, director and writer of such programs as "McKenzie's Raiders," "Bat Masterson" and "This Man Dawson." He produced "Guestward Ho," "Kraft Mystery Theatre" and "The Lucy Show," and directed "Petticoat Junction" and the Andy Griffith and Bill Cosby shows.

In the late 1950s, Lewis returned to radio, producing "CBS Radio Workshop," "The Zero Hour" and "Sears Radio Theatre." His most recent work for television was as executive script consultant on the series "Remington Steele."

When many artists would have retired, Lewis ventured into a third medium at the age of 63--the mystery novel.

Beginning in 1980 with "Two Heads Are Better," which a Times review called "a striking novelistic debut," he penned a series of eight books about a bitter, alienated ex-cop turned private detective named Fred Bennett.

Lewis especially enjoyed writing novels, he said, "because the writer is the actor, director, producer, wardrobe person, weatherman, location director, stunt and second unit director, crowd handler, transportation gaffer and everything else I've ever been around, all rolled up into one person."

He is survived by his second wife, actress Mary Jane Croft Lewis, of Gleneden Beach, and a brother, Raymond, of Larkspur, Calif.

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