A quartet of passings: Richard Zanuck, William Asher, Donald Sobol, Jon Lord

Unfortunately, over the past few days a number of media personalities who left significant marks on the 1970s have passed away; TV & film director William Asher, producer Richard Zanuck, children’s author Donald J. Sobol and Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord.

Richard Zanuck

Richard Zanuck (far right) with Steven Spielberg on the set of Jaws, 1974

Film producer, Richard Zanuck, passed away Friday, July 13th at the age of 77. Zanuck was best known for producing the 1975 blockbuster, Jaws, and the 1973 Oscar winner for ‘Best Picture’, The Sting. During the 70s, Zanuck also produced such diverse films as Willie Dynamite, The Sugarland Express and The Eiger Sanction. Read more at CBS News and IMDb.

CBS Quote:

“Zanuck most recently produced the big-screen adaptation of the cult classic TV series ‘Dark Shadows,’ directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, which was released by Warner Bros. in May.

The contrasts between Richard and Darryl Zanuck were many and led to father-son clashes throughout their respective careers. Richard Zanuck was reserved, soft-spoken and friendly with directors, writers and actors, and he liked to operate from behind his desk.

His authoritarian father, on the other hand, paced his office, issuing orders in a squeaky voice and sometimes wielding a polo mallet (in his early years he had played polo with other Hollywood figures). He would reach decisions quickly, and once he did they became studio law.”

William Asher

William Asher with Elizabeth Montgomery and child, circa 1960s (Miami Herald)

Television and film director, William Asher, passed away Monday, July 16th at the age of 91. Asher was best known for his directing work on I Love Lucy and co-creating, producing and directing numerous episodes of Bewitched (starring his then wife, Elizabeth Montgomery). During the 1970s Asher also directed TV shows including The Paul Lynde Show, Alice, The Dukes of Hazzard, Tabitha and The Bad News Bears. Read more at Variety, The Desert Sun and IMDb.

Variety Quote:

“Beyond TV, Asher also wrote and directed a series of popular beach-party movies starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon: ‘Beach Party,’ ‘Muscle Beach Party,’ ‘Beach Blanket Bingo’ and ‘How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.’ While working on these pics, he developed the pilot of the beach-set comedy ‘Gidget’ for Sally Field and directed a number of episodes.

He won an Emmy in 1966 for directing an episode of ‘Bewitched’ and was thereafter nominated three more times for his work on the show.”

Donald J. Sobol

Donald J. Sobol, the author of children’s detective series, Encyclopedia Brown, passed away Wednesday, July 11th at the age of 87. Sobol created the Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown character in 1963 and a slew of successful books have been published in the decades since. 1970s titles (much enjoyed by this writer in his childhood) include; Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day (1970) and Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case (1973). An Encyclopedia Brown comic strip ran from December, 1978 – September, 1980. Read more at Huff Post Books and Wikipedia.

Huff Post Quote:

“Sobol’s series featured amateur sleuth Leroy ‘Encyclopedia’ Brown, who would unravel local mysteries with the help of his encyclopedic knowledge of facts great and small. The books, first published in the early 1960s, became staples in classrooms and libraries nationwide. They were translated into 12 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide.”

Jon Lord

Jon Lord of Deep Purple, 1970s. Photo: The Guardian/Fin Costello/Redferns

Jon Lord, keyboardist for Deep Purple, passed away Monday, July 15th at the age of 71. Lord played with Deep Purple throughout their “classic” years, 1968-1976, as well as during a second stint from 1984-2002. It’s Lord’s distinctive keyboard you hear on the band’s rock-staple, “Smoke on the Water” from 1972’s Machine Head L.P. Read more at The Guardian, Deep Purple Wikipedia.

The Guardian Quote:

“‘We’re as valid as anything by Beethoven,’ declared Jon Lord of his band, Deep Purple, in an interview with the New Musical Express in 1973. Lord, who has died aged 71 after suffering from pancreatic cancer, was not merely adopting a rebellious stance. An accomplished classical composer as well as rock musician, he believed with some justification that his group’s music was as profound in structure and as significant in cultural impact as any work from the symphonic canon. At the time, Deep Purple were among the world’s biggest rock bands, having built an enormous fanbase on the strength of their classically influenced songs, which lent further weight to Lord’s statement.”

Photo Credits: Richard Zanuck via blastr, William Asher via Miami Herald, Donald Sobol via Bookworm’s Abode & Fantastic Fiction, Jon Lord via The Guardian/Fin Costello/Redferns.

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