Paul Junger Witt, who produced such hit TV shows as Golden Girls, Here Come the Brides and features Dead Poets Society, Three Kings and Insomnia, among others, died Friday morning at his home after a long battle with cancer, his publicist said. He was 77.
Witt, who began his career in the mailroom at Columbia Pictures, rose to become a producer of some TV’s most beloved and successful shows. Witt was behind such hits as The Partridge Family, Golden Girls, Here Come the Brides, Soap, its spinoff Benson, Empty Nest, Blossom and the original Beauty and the Beast.
In addition to his TV work, Witt also was a producer of features Dead Poets Society and Insomnia, both starring Robin Williams; Three Kings; and critically praised A Better Life, along with the classic 1971 TV movie Brian’s Song. The photo at left shows Witt with Williams at the Insomnia premiere in 2002.
With his producing partner Tony Thomas, Witt ran Witt/Thomas Productions in the 1970s and ’80s. In 1983, Witt married writer-producer Susan Harris, creator of NBC’s Golden Girls, and the company expanded as Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, a partnership which exists to this day.
In addition to his producing career, Witt had a passion for the environment and devoted a significant amount of time to environmental causes. He served on the California State Park and Recreation Commission as Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Commissioner for nearly 16 years. He also was a member of the boards of ecoAmerica, the Environmental Media Association, the Emmett Institute on Climate Change, Environmental Defense Fund and the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.
Witt also served on the USC School of Cinematic Arts Board of Councilors and the University of Virginia Council of the Arts, where he was a graduate in 1963.
Witt is survived by his wife, Harris, and their children Christopher, Anthony, Genevieve, Oliver and Sam.
Services for Witt will be private. Donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (www.stjudge.org), Save the Children (501 Kings Highway East, Suite 400, Fairfield, CT 06825) or an environmental organization of choice.