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Maurice Rosenfield, 91; Film Producer Introduced De Niro in '73

November 08, 2005|From Associated Press

Maurice Rosenfield, an attorney and Broadway and film producer who introduced a young Robert De Niro to a wide audience, has died. He was 91.

He died Oct. 30 of heart failure at his son's home in Lake Forest, Ill., a suburb of his native Chicago, his family said.

Rosenfield and his wife, Lois, bankrolled and cast a 1973 screen version of "Bang the Drum Slowly," a book about a New York professional baseball team and two of its players -- a simple-minded catcher who was dying, played by the then-unknown De Niro, and his friend, a star pitcher, played by Michael Moriarty.

In 1980, the Rosenfields produced their first Broadway show, "Barnum," which included Glenn Close in her first Broadway leading role and Jim Dale, who won a Tony Award for the title role.

Other Rosenfield-produced shows included a revival of "The Glass Menagerie" and a 1985 adaptation of "Singin' in the Rain."

As an attorney, Rosenfield wrote a paper in 1941 that was credited with laying the groundwork for the modern class-action lawsuit. It argued that many claims too small to take to court could be lumped together into one lawsuit.

Rosenfield specialized in 1st Amendment cases. He helped Playboy fight censorship complaints in the magazine's early years, and in 1964 successfully defended comedian Lenny Bruce against obscenity charges.

In 1967, he filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Lloyd Eldon Miller, who had been convicted of raping and killing an 8-year-old Joliet, Ill., girl. Miller's conviction was overturned hours before his scheduled execution.

Rosenfield's wife died of cancer in 2003. He is survived by two sons, Andrew and James; and several grandchildren.

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