Filmways Television co-founder and film/TV producer Martin Ransohoff has died. He was 90 years old and passed away at his home in Bel-Air, according to his family.
Ransohoff had a long list of film and TV credits, including The Cincinnati Kid – a film on which he fired director Sam Peckinpah – as well as Save the Tiger, The Sandpiper (with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton), Catch 22, Jagged Edge, The Americanization of Emily, Silver Streak, Ice Station Zebra, and TV shows Mister Ed, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Green Acres, among others.
In 1952, Ransohoff founded Filmways Television with Ed Kasper as an outlet for industrial films and TV commercials. The company went public in 1958 via the American Stock Exchange, a move that proved prescient when it became a hit-making machine. In the 1960s, it was the home of such iconic TV shows as Mister Ed, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction and The Addams Family. It later aquired the Heatter-Quigley Productions company, getting game show The Hollywood Squares in the deal.
That success buoyed the company’s film production plans and Ransohoff dived in full force in 1962. Ransohoff was a hands-on executive. After seeing the Peckinpah dailies on The Cincinnati Kid, a drama about a high-stakes New Orleans poker game starring Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson, Ann-Margret and Karl Malden, Ransohoff decided that Peckinpah had to go. The sticking point was Peckinpah’s idea that the film should be in black and white.
“Shutting down meant losing $500,000,” Ransohoff recalled later. “We had an all-star cast and no director. Believe me, it was not done lightly. I was really disappointed because I had really gone out on a hook for Sam. It was very embarrassing for me.” Norman Jewison was the replacement, and the film went on to success.
Ransohoff was born in New Orleans and graduated from Colgate University in 1949. He began his career in advertising on Madison Avenue before getting into TV. Ransohoff sold his share of Filmways in 1972.
Survivors include his wife, Joan Marie; sons Peter, Kurt and Steve; stepdaughter Erica; and 10 grandchildren.