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News: General

NORMAN FELTON, 1913-2012

Friday, July 13, 2012   (0 Comments)
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We are sad to report the passing of another giant among our profession, as long-time PGA member and former Guild President Norman Felton, the producer of such series as Dr. Kildare and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., died on June 25, at age 99.

A television producer whose roots stretched back to the early days of the medium, Felton got his start directing live television in New York, including such series as Robert Montgomery Presents (for which he won an Emmy in 1950), The United States Steel Hour and The Alcoa Hour. He first stepped into the producer’s role on Studio One in Hollywood (another program he had directed for) and never looked back.

Shortly after assuming the producer’s chair, he brought the popular radio and film series Dr. Kildare to television. The program found a lasting home on the small screen, defining the medical drama for decades to come with its uncommonly empathetic characters, absorbing human drama, and nuanced interplay between stars Richard Chamblerlain and Raymond Massey. Felton was the driving creative force behind the long-running series’ success, credited as executive producer on every one of the program’s 191 episodes.

A few years after the television premiere of Dr. Kildare, Felton introduced Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the standout espionage series that ran for 105 episodes. Felton was again credited as executive producer on each of them. Today’s multi-platform producers can recognize a forebear in Felton’s expansion of the U.N.C.L.E. universe, as the producer both introduced the shorter-lived series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., starring Stefanie Powers, in 1966, and took the innovative step of packaging each of the series two-part episodes (along with a modest amount of new footage) as full-length feature films for release on the international market.

Later in his career, Felton turned more fully to feature-length storytelling, producing a string of acclaimed long-form television projects throughout the 1970s. Marriage: Year One with Sally Field, Baffled!, with Leonard Nimoy, and And Your Name Is Jonah, with James Woods and Sally Struthers are a few of his most well-regarded MOWs.

Felton was one of the true gentlemen of his profession, universally respected (even beloved) by his peers, and a dedicated PGA member, serving as Guild President (along with David Dortort) at the height of his career, in 1967-68. He received two lasting honors from the Producers Guild: In 1997, he received the Charles FitzSimons Lifetime Membership Award for his service to the PGA. And in 1990, when the Guild first presented competitive awards in television, the PGA Board of Directors christened the first such honor The Norman Felton Television Producer of the Year Award. And though the Producers Guild Awards have changed greatly through the years, including the addition of many new television categories, he remains the namesake for the Guild’s Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama.

Even into his 10th decade, Felton was an honored presence at PGA Awards shows and major events, as warm-hearted and gracious in his retirement as he was in his career. He is already missed.

Further information can be found in the obituary run in Variety earlier this month.