Norman Twain Dies; ‘Lean On Me’ Producer Who Staged Broadway’s Legendary 1969 ‘Hamlet’ Was 85

Jeffrey Richards Associates

Norman Twain, a prolific Broadway producer of the 1960s and ’70s whose Hollywood credits later included 1989’s Lean on Me starring Morgan Freeman, died August 6 following a brief illness. He was 85.

A producer whose Broadway and off-Broadway career included stagings of plays by John Osborne, Anthony Creighton and John Guare, Twain moved to California in the 1970s. In addition to Lean on Me, he was an associate producer of 1984’s The Hotel New Hampshire and the 1975 TV movie It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman!

Twain executive produced the 2001 HBO telefilm Boycott, starring Jeffrey Wright as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Other film credits include Scar (2007), Spinning Into Butter (2007) and the animated My Dog Tulip (2009).

Twain’s critically lauded 1969 production of director Tony Richardson’s Hamlet starring a temperamental Nicol Williamson became a legend in itself. Decades later, Williamson would spoof (and out-do) himself in Paul Rudnick’s I Hate Hamlet, a troubled 1991 comedy that saw the abrupt departure of co-star Evan Handler after he was struck onstage by an improvising and sword-wielding Williamson.

Twain’s other New York productions included Epitaph for George Dillon by Osborne and Creighton, Roots by Arnold Wesker, The Lady of the Camelias, Traveler Without Luggage, Bajour, Henry, Sweet Henry, The World of Charles Aznavour and Guare’s Cop-Out starring Linda Lavin and Ron Leibman.

On the West Coast in the 1970s, he produced David’s Rabe’s Streamers starring Richard Thomas, Cyrano with Stacy Keach, Eccentricities of a Nightingale starring Sandy Dennis and Jack Heifner’s Vanities with Elizabeth Ashley and Lesley Ann Warren, among many other productions.

Twain is survived by wife, actress Deanna Deignan, daughter Dena, a son-in-law and two granddaughters.



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