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Obituaries

Tommy Thompson; TV, Movie Producer

March 08, 2000|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tommy Thompson, veteran producer of television's "The Lucy Show" who also worked extensively on the films of Robert Altman, has died of a heart attack. He was 73. Thompson died Friday during location shooting of the Altman film that he was co-producing, "Dr. T and the Women," starring Richard Gere. The company was filming in the desert near Baker, Calif. Thompson maintained homes in Los Angeles and in Haena, Hawaii.

The producer made his mark with Lucille Ball's long-running, evolving series as a comedic single mother from 1962 to 1974. He worked extensively in television, most recently as one of the producers, along with Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, of the series "Designing Women," which ran from 1986 to 1993.

Over the last three decades, beginning with Altman's 1971 film "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," Thompson also worked as an assistant director and producer of motion pictures.

His next project was to have been as Harry Thomason's assistant director for the film, "Crossing the Bar," to be filmed in Little Rock, Ark.

A regular in the Altman team for about a dozen motion pictures, Thompson served as executive producer of many of the director's films, including "A Wedding" in 1978 and "Quintet" in 1979. He was also Altman's assistant director on a spate of 1970s films, including "The Long Goodbye," "California Split," the classic "Nashville," "Buffalo Bill and the Indians" and "Three Women." Last year, Thompson was Altman's first assistant director on the film "Cookie's Fortune."

Whether Thompson was directing, producing comedy or just sitting around chatting with the cast and crew, he was always witty and popular with colleagues.

"He was the sweetest guy in the world," his current co-producer, David Levy, told Variety columnist Army Archerd. Levy said the "Dr. T" company had been devastated by Thompson's death.

In typical off-the-cuff humor, Thompson in 1967 described to Times entertainment writer Cecil Smith his impressions of watching a play (Eugene O'Neill's "More Stately Mansions") from the theater balcony:

"It was an extraordinary experience. You see, there was this man in the seat in front of me and he kind of leaned forward on his hands. Well, what I saw was his head with the ears on each side. Almost covered the stage.

"Now Ingrid Bergman or one of the others would come out from the side and she'd go in that man's ear. Now from the other side would come another character and he'd go in the other ear. After a while, a character would come out of this ear and he'd go in the other ear. They kept going in and out of that man's ears all night.

"Once all of them from both sides went in the ears and for a while there they were, all inside that man's head, and I said to myself: 'O'Neill, you're in trouble, boy! You got to get those people out of there! He made it, but it was nip and tuck for a while."

Thompson is survived by his wife, Janie Peet-Thompson; his daughter, Alexandra "Lexy" Cosentino Schwarzinger; his stepson, John Peet; and three grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Church of the Hills, Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. The family has asked that memorial donations be made to a charity of the donor's choice.

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