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Obituaries

Charles B. FitzSimons; Producers Guild Executive

February 17, 2001|RACHEL USLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Charles B. FitzSimons, the longtime executive director of the Producers Guild of America, has died.

The brother of actress Maureen O'Hara, FitzSimons died Wednesday of liver failure at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 76.

FitzSimons began his 41-year career as the location supervisor for John Ford's "The Quiet Man." But he became best known as executive director of the Producers Guild, a post he held from 1981 until his retirement in 1999. In that job, FitzSimons' key goal was "to get a fair break for producers so that they would have parity with the other creative professions," he told the Hollywood Reporter in 1999. Part of this focus was to establish guidelines that would put limits on notoriously easy-to-earn producer credits.

In 1990 he received the first Lifetime Honorary Membership Award--now known as the Charles B. FitzSimons Award--for service to the guild.

"The guild would not have survived without his support and leadership during his 18 years," said Vance Van Petten, the current executive director. "He was always a colleague, always supporting the producers as brethren and looking out for the higher need of the group."

Born in Dublin, Ireland, FitzSimons first pursued a career in law, earning a bachelor's degree in political, legal and economic science from the National University of Ireland and a law degree from Kings Inns of Court in Dublin. But as a member of a talented family that included O'Hara, a harpist and a ballet instructor, FitzSimons soon discovered his artistic side. He became a dramatic arts graduate at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and a member of its company.

In 1951, his sister O'Hara, who was co-starring in "The Quiet Man" suggested to her director that FitzSimons, then 27, would be ideal to supervise the film's Irish location. Ford and his producing partner, Merian C. Cooper, agreed, also giving the young lawyer and theater actor a small role.

After the film, FitzSimons accompanied Ford and Cooper to the United States, where he made six films in two years before being called back to Ireland as a location supervisor, this time for Universal Studios' "Captain Lightfoot."

FitzSimons was soon working constantly. In 1955 and 1956, he served as associate producer for Edward L. Alperson Productions. In 1958 he became program developer for CBS Television and in 1965 he worked at Greenway Productions as assistant executive producer. During the 1970s and '80s, he worked on such shows as "Love American Style" and "Wonder Woman."

FitzSimons is survived by his wife, Cherie, five children, three sisters--including O'Hara--and five grandchildren.

The funeral will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Martin of Tours, 11967 Sunset Blvd. The family has said that donations may be made to the Irish Sisters of Charity, c/o Sister Margaret Mary, 10664 St. James Drive, Culver City, CA 90236.

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