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Ernest H. Martin; Broadway Producer

May 09, 1995|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ernest H. Martin, a Broadway producer who won a Tony for the original production of "Guys and Dolls" and later converted the hit musicals "Cabaret" and "A Chorus Line" to film, died Monday at his Los Angeles home. He was 75.

Martin, who worked in partnership with Cy Feuer in Feuer & Martin Productions, also managed the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera program from 1976 to 1980.

A native of Pittsburgh and graduate of UCLA, Martin was head of comedy programming at CBS before setting out for Broadway.

He and Feuer staged their first success nearly half a century ago with "Where's Charley?" starring Ray Bolger and choreographed by the noted ballet creator George Balanchine.

"Guys and Dolls" followed in 1950. In rapid succession, the producers rolled out three more hits, running their string to five straight: "Can-Can" in 1953, which made Gwen Verdon a star; the American production of "The Boy Friend" in 1954, which introduced Julie Andrews to Broadway, and "Silk Stockings" in 1955.

Less successful was their next Broadway musical, "Whoop-Up."

But Martin and Feuer barely paused for breath before staging the original "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," which won the Pulitzer Prize. A revival of the much-loved musical starring Matthew Broderick is now on Broadway.

The producing team's other shows through the 1960s included "Little Me" starring Sid Caesar, "Skyscraper," "Walking Happy" and "The Goodbye People."

Moving west to Hollywood, the duo produced the film version of "Cabaret" starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey in 1972. The film won eight Academy Awards.

Five years later, Martin and Feuer also produced Minnelli's play "The Act" on Broadway.

In 1985, succeeding where a succession of producers and directors had failed, they filmed the popular musical "A Chorus Line." The duo had begun pursuing the film rights in 1975 even before Joseph Papp and Michael Bennett's musical opened on Broadway.

They went to see the show when it was still in previews at a 299-seat theater and saw so many problems that Martin later reported they cried.

"And all that notwithstanding," Martin added, "we knew it was a good property."

The effort by so many to turn the musical into a movie remains a key example of the difficulties of marrying stage and film, the self-focused East and West Coasts, and creative and financial interests. Martin and Feuer ultimately were successful because they could make it all happen--script, cast, director--fast and affordably after so many years of bickering and delay.

Martin married three times. He is survived by his wife, Twyla, and three children, Elizabeth, Cecelia and Polly.

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