Irma Kalish, one of television’s first female producers whose writing and producing credits with her husband and writing partner include the Norman Lear series Maude, All in the Family and Good Times as well as My Favorite Martian, My Three Sons, Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie, The Bob Newhart Show and Too Close for Comfort, died September 3 in Woodland Hills, CA due to complications from pneumonia. She was 96.
The news was confirmed Monday by a family spokesperson.
Kalish, born Irma May Ginsberg in New York City, was also a vice president and longtime board member of the WGA West, receiving the writers guild’s Valentine Davies Award and Morgan Cox Award. She also was one of the first presidents of Women In Film, and the recipient of that organization’s Founders Award. Kalish also spent 27 years on the board of the Motion Picture and Television Fund.
“Irma was not only a force to be reckoned with in comedy writing, she remained a guild activist throughout her career,” WGAW president David A. Goodman said. “She served on the Board of Directors for multiple terms, was Vice President for two terms and was a member of numerous key committees. Recognized for her dedication to her colleagues, the craft of writing and to the greater entertainment community, she received the WGAW’s Valentine Davies and Morgan Cox honorary awards.
“Irma was the ultimate professional and a true believer in the importance of her union to the lives of her fellow writers.”
As a writing duo, Kalish and her husband Austin “Rocky” Kalish began their careers writing for The Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Radio Show, following them to TV. The Kalishes were in demand for the next three decades, compiling head writing and producing credits that also included Family Affair, F-Troop and The King and I.
Among their work, the duo wrote the two-part Maude episode “Maude’s Dilemma” in 1972 about Maude contemplating an abortion. A year later, they penned All in the Family episodes about Edith’s breast cancer scare and Gloria being sexually assaulted.
As a solo writer-producer, Irma Kalish executive produced 24 episodes and also wrote on Good Times, and wrote and produced Valerie, Oh Madeline, The Hogan Family, 227 and The Facts of Life. She also wrote the 1985 TV movie I Dream of Jeannie… 15 Years Later.
Irma and Rocky were married for 68 years until Rocky’s death in 2016.
Kalish is survived by her sister, Harriet Alef; son, comedy writer-producer Bruce Kalish and his wife Leah; grandchildren Matthew Biederman Sr. and his wife Cassie Fink, writer-producer Mackenzie Kalish; and great-grandchildren Nicholas and Caden Biederman.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the MPTF. A memorial service will be announced.
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