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Obituaries

Coles Trapnell; Television Writer Produced 'Maverick'

February 04, 1999|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Coles Trapnell, early television writer and producer whose series included "Maverick," has died at age 88.

Trapnell, also a longtime story editor at Universal Studios who taught script writing at L.A. Valley College, died Friday of a heart attack at a retirement home in Los Angeles.

In the mid-1950s, Trapnell served as story editor of the classic live television series "Four Star Playhouse," a collaboration of performers Charles Boyer, Ida Lupino, David Niven and Dick Powell.

"With the number of dramatic shows on TV increasing each year," Trapnell told The Times in 1954, "competition for good stories is now a dead serious business."

In those years Trapnell selected 80 scripts a year to supply "Four Star" and two half-hour shows, "The Star" and "The Story." In addition to currying known Hollywood writers, Trapnell sought top-quality material in UCLA theater arts classes and trade publications.

From 1959 to 1962, Trapnell wrote his own stories and produced Warner Bros.' "Maverick," which launched James Garner as a star. Trapnell also wrote for the Western series "Lawman" and "Yancy Derringer."

A native of New York, Trapnell was educated at Virginia Military Institute and New York University and began his career as a journalist on the Glen Cove Record.

He moved to Hollywood in 1936 as a reader at RKO and then worked for 20th Century Fox as story editor and associate producer until 1953. He was story editor at Universal from 1962 until his retirement in 1975.

In 1966, Trapnell wrote a well-received book titled "Teleplay," a guide for aspiring scriptwriters.

Survivors include two daughters, Sarah Trapnell Byrne of Palo Alto and Jane Trapnell Marino of New York, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14, in Westwood Memorial Park. The family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the American Heart Assn.

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