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Steve Krantz, 83; writer-producer turned wife's novels into miniseries

January 15, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Steve Krantz, the husband of novelist Judith Krantz who produced the X-rated animated movie "Fritz the Cat" and created successful TV miniseries out of his wife's potboilers, has died. He was 83.

Krantz died Jan. 4 at a hospital in Los Angeles of complications of pneumonia, according to John Tellem, a family spokesman.

During his TV career, Krantz wrote for Milton Berle and Arthur Godfrey, was executive producer for Steve Allen's "The Tonight Show" and helped create several comedies, including "Dennis the Menace" and "Bewitched" as head of creative development at Columbia Pictures Television.

He later turned to features such as "Fritz the Cat," based on the Robert Crumb underground comic. The 1972 feature went on to gross more than $100 million and spawned a sequel.

Krantz's other movies included "Cooley High," about black high school students in the 1960s. It inspired the TV comedy "What's Happening?"

In the 1980s and 1990s, Krantz produced miniseries of his wife's novels, including "Scruples," "Mistral's Daughter" and "Dazzle."

His wife once told The Times that his insistence she could write fiction prompted her to create her first novel, "Scruples," in order to prove him wrong. The book sold briskly and spawned a huge career.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 20, 1923, Krantz graduated from Columbia College in 1943. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II as a communications officer in the Pacific theater.

Krantz met his future wife, Judith Tarcher, through Barbara Walters, a high school friend of Tarcher's, in 1953. They married the following February. In 1971, they moved to Beverly Hills from New York with their two sons.

Krantz wrote two novels himself, one of which, "Laurel Canyon" (1979), was a best-seller.

After his retirement, Krantz was involved with mental health counseling and was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson to the board of the California Mental Health Planning Council.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his sons, Tony and Nicholas of Los Angeles; a sister, Sunny Onish of Manhattan; and two grandchildren.

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