Jay Wolpert, who was the original producer of The Price Is Right in the 1970s, created other game shows and later scripted The Count of Monte Cristo and Disney’s first Pirates of the Caribbean film, died Monday of Alzheimer’s in Los Angeles. He was 78.
Wolpert’s reps at Code Entertainment confirmed his death today. Watch a WGA West video interview with him below.
Wolpert won a Jeopardy! championship in the late 1960s, an experience that steered him toward a career in TV game shows. Working for Goodson-Todman Productions, he became the first producer of the Bob Barker-hosted Price Is Right, which premiered in 1972. He remained in that role until 1978.
In 1976, Wolpert created Double Dare, another Goodson-Todson game show originally hosted by future Jeopardy! answer man Alex Trebek. It aired for about five months. Wolpert went on to launch Jay Wolpert Productions, for which he created the daytime game shows Whew! (CBS, 1979-80), Hit Man (NBC, 1983) and Blackout (CBS, 1988). His 1987 pilot based on the Trivial Pursuit board was not picked up.
In 1990, Wolpert created and wrote for Into the Night with Rick Dees, an ABC late-night series fronted by the popular radio DJ and “Disco Duck” singer that lasted one season. Wolpert later penned episodes of TV’s Noel’s House Party and The Lazarus Man.
Wolpert would return to the game show genre as a producer of syndie The New Price Is Right (1994) and later served as executive producer of Wait ‘Til You Have Kids (1996-97), Shopping Spree (1996-98) and Match Game (1998).
Born on January 29, 1942, in NYC’s the Bronx, his career took a new tack in the early 2000s, after a chance meeting with a woman he’d hired as an assistant early on for This Price Is Right.
Nancy Meyers had produced Private Benjamin, Baby Boom and the Father of the Bride films and encouraged Wolpert to write. He did, and his first screenplay was for 2002’s The Count of Monte Cristo, starring Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce.
That got Disney’s attention, and Wolpert went on to pen the story for 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, the film that launched the billion-dollar franchise starring Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. He would be credited for the characters in the four sequels.
“I have a definition of what I do,” Wolpert told the WGAW in 2008. “If you put a boat on the stormy ocean, you’ve got an action picture. You put somebody on that boat you give a damn about, you’ve got an adventure. I write adventure.”
Here is a clip from that interview:
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