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Fred S. Fox Sr., 90; He Wrote Comedy for Bob Hope, George Burns

November 03, 2005|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Fred S. Fox Sr., a veteran comedy writer who worked for some of Hollywood's most legendary entertainers, including Bob Hope and George Burns, has died. He was 90.

Fox died Oct. 23 in Encino of pneumonia, said his daughter, Jan Fox.

His work inspired younger generations of comedy writers, including director-producer Garry Marshall, creator of "Happy Days," and his own son, Fred Fox Jr., who wrote for that popular series, among others.

"He was my writing mentor on my first script and one of the strongest influences in my career," Marshall told The Times on Tuesday. "But most of all, he was very funny."

Born in St. Louis, Fox graduated from UC Berkeley and began his career at two San Francisco radio stations. At KSFO, his popular show, "Freddie the Fox," was canceled after mothers complained that their children were imitating Fox's stutter, Fox's daughter said.

At the outset of World War II, Fox worked as a writer and producer for the Office of War Information. But he soon moved to Hollywood to write for comedians and in 1944 joined Hope's staff.

Initially, Fox wrote for "The Bob Hope Pepsodent Show," which had begun in 1938, and over their lengthy association co-wrote many of Hope's specials and Christmas shows performed for troops around the world.

Even on his honeymoon in 1946, Fox was asked by Hope to send back 20 jokes a day. The writer reluctantly did as he was told -- and the honeymoon couple was rewarded with a week at the luxurious Hope compound in Palm Springs.

"He was not only good to work with," Fox told The Times when Hope died in 2003 at age 100, "but when you got to know him, he became a friend."

Fox also maintained a long association with another centenarian comedian, Burns, who also was 100 when he died in 1996. Fox began writing for Burns and his wife, Gracie Allen, when he first moved to Hollywood in 1943. Years later, Fox won a Writers Guild Award for "The George Burns Comedy Hour." With his longtime writing partner, Seaman Jacobs, and others, Fox also wrote the script for Burns' 1980 feature film "Oh, God! Book II" from the novel by Avery Corman.

Although he also wrote for Lucille Ball, Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Red Skelton, Andy Griffith and others, Fox was fondest of Hope and Burns, his daughter said.

"Those were the greatest. They didn't need writers; they were brilliant on their own," she said he often told his family and friends.

Among Fox's long list of credits was one of the earliest television variety shows, "The Red Skelton Hour," in 1951, as well as "The Andy Griffith Show," "Petticoat Junction," "F Troop," "Here's Lucy," "The Doris Day Show," "The Love Boat" and "Diff'rent Strokes."

In addition to his twin son and daughter, Fox is survived by a brother, Henry, and a granddaughter.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday at the Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills.

The family has asked that, instead of flowers, memorial donations be sent to a charity of the donor's choice.

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