Charles Fries (producer)

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Charles William "Chuck" Fries (born September 30, 1928)[1] is an American film producer, television producer, and executive producer who has worked on many TV series, made-for-TV movies, and theatrical films.[2][3]

The Cincinnati, Ohio-born Fries moved to Los Angeles in 1952 and began working for the production and syndication company Ziv Television Programs. He later worked at Screen Gems, Columbia Pictures, and Metromedia. In 1974, he formed Charles Fries Productions, which later became Fries Entertainment, where he produced and/or supervised more than 275 hours of television movies and mini-series. Among the projects he produced are The Amazing Spider-Man television series, which aired in the USA between 1977-1979, the 1980 television miniseries The Martian Chronicles, based on the book by Ray Bradbury, the 1981 television docudrama Bitter Harvest, and the 1989 made-for-TV movies Small Sacrifices and The Neon Empire. For theatrical release, he produced or was involved in the productions of the 1982 film Cat People, the 1986 skateboarding film Thrashin', and the 1989 film Troop Beverly Hills, which he co-produced with his wife, Ava Ostern Fries.[citation needed]

Fries has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life[edit]

Fries worked for his father's produce company, Charles Fries Produce, while attending Elder High School in Cincinnati. He graduated in 1946 and went on to attend Ohio State University, where he became a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. After graduating from Ohio State in 1950, Fries continued to work for his father's produce business until, in 1952, a relative who worked at Ziv Television Programs offered Fries the opportunity to move to California and work for the company.[4]

Ziv Television Programs, Inc.[edit]

Fries began to work for Ziv Television in 1952 at California Studios, which is now known as Raleigh Studios, in Hollywood, California. During his eight years at Ziv, the company produced shows such as The Cisco Kid, Highway Patrol, and Sea Hunt. "Television was a cottage industry in 1952, when I came on the scene. The Ziv office staff in Hollywood was very small, probably no more than fifteen people."[5]

With Fries running the company's production and studio operations, Ziv became one of the more prominent independent TV syndication companies. Rather than only buying commercial air time on TV, advertisers during this period would typically buy entire programs, such as General Electric Theater hosted by Ronald Reagan and Texaco Star Theater hosted by Milton Berle. Ziv and other syndication companies would fashion a show for an advertiser by tailoring main titles and commercials to air in the number of cities that the advertiser would "buy." These specially fashioned titles and commercials made it look like the advertiser owned and produced the entire series. The rise of network television ultimately prompted company founder Frederick Ziv to sell the company to United Artists in 1960.[citation needed]

Screen Gems[edit]

Fries parted ways with Ziv and was appointed Vice President In Charge of Production for Screen Gems, the Columbia Pictures television arm, in 1960. He was involved in the production of such series as Naked City, Route 66, Bewitched, Father Knows Best, and I Dream of Jeannie, during which he became lifelong friends with that sitcom's lead actress Barbara Eden. Years later, I Dream of Jeannie actor Larry Hagman confided to Fries that during production of the series, Hagman despised the bosses at Columbia and Screen Gems with such fervor that he once hired an airplane to fly over the studio so he could urinate out the window onto the buildings.[6]

While working at Screen Gems, Fries took a meeting at the famed Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel with Harold Cohen, a former lawyer at several Hollywood talent agencies who was currently between jobs and looking to begin a new career as a producer. Fries arrived for an 8:00 a.m. breakfast meeting to find that Cohen's tablecloth was already soiled. When Fries asked what had happened, Cohen admitted that he'd already had a meeting with someone at 7:30. "I had some coffee with him and I'm gonna have my grapefruit now," Cohen said. After the meeting, Fries was getting up to leave when somebody else showed up at Cohen's table for an 8:45 meeting. Fries realized that, in Hollywood, if you're out-of-work and looking for a new job, a resourceful way to do business is to run your day between a couple of different restaurants. This particular meeting between Fries and Cohen would ultimately result in Screen Gems' placing the variety show The Johnny Cash Show on the air. It ran for two seasons.[7]

Columbia and Metromedia[edit]

In 1968, Fries became Vice President In Charge of Feature Film Production for Columbia Pictures, where he worked on theatrical films such as Castle Keep with Burt Lancaster, The Horsemen with Jack Palance, Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson and Getting Straight with Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen.[8]

After two years at Columbia, Fries became Executive Vice President In Charge of Production for Metromedia, where he produced and supervised 26 movies for television and 13 television series, including The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.[9]

Chuck Fries Productions[edit]

In 1974, Fries established Chuck Fries Productions, where he produced and/or supervised more than 275 hours of television movies and mini-series.[citation needed]

Awards[edit]

Fries has been awarded one of the greatest honors bestowed on anyone working in Hollywood: his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is directly opposite the famed Mann Chinese Theatre. His films have garnered the Emmy, Peabody, Humanitas and Christopher Awards among others from selected film festivals. He has been awarded a special honor by ICAN: The Interagency for Child Abuse and Neglect.

With his wife, Ava, he received honors from PATH: People Assisting The Homeless; The Maple Center, a Beverly Hills family counseling service; and Cedars Sinai Medical Center, among others. The couple has raised millions for worthy causes in the Los Angeles area with a particular emphasis on the arts and children.

Feature Films[edit]

Some of the theatrical motion pictures produced under the Fries banner include Paul Schrader’s The Cat People, a Universal release starring Nastassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell; Out of Bounds, starring Anthony Michael Hall, released by Columbia Pictures; skateboarding film Thrashin', distributed by New Line Cinema Corporation which featured a young Tony Hawk and "W" actor Josh Brolin; Flowers in the Attic (film), a co-production with New World; Troop Beverly Hills for Weintraub Entertainment; and Screamers (1995 film).

Books[edit]

Fries co-authored We'll Never Be Young Again: Remembering the Last Days of John F. Kennedy, a book incorporating over 100 letters from prominent individuals relating the impact Kennedy's death had had on them. The book was then developed as a staged reading for the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

Fries wrote his autobiography, Chuck Fries Godfather of the Television Movie: A History of Television about the early years of television, the day-to-day workings of the entertainment business, the origins of television movies and what it takes to get them produced and distributed.

Stage Plays[edit]

His concept for the play, The Color of Rose, a three-woman show about the life of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, was also presented at the Douglas Theatre and opened at the Emerson College Theatre in Boston in January 2011.[10]

Current[edit]

Fries is currently a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, where he has served on the Board of Governors and as Treasurer and Secretary of the Foundation. He is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where he served on the Executive Branch Membership Committee. He was awarded a Lifetime Membership in the Producer’s Guild of America, where he launched the Guild’s Black Tie Awards event in 1998 creating a financial base from which he was instrumental in formulating the Guild’s Strategic Plan of Reorganization.

He is also active at the Center Theatre Group (The Ahmanson, Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatres), where he served on the Board and the Executive Committee, and as Vice President. He is Co-Chair with his wife, Ava Ostern Fries, of the Executive Committee of the CTG Entertainment Circle and through an association with a constituent group, Center Theatre Group Affiliates, has co-chaired a number of events.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chuck Fries Interview. Archive of American Television.
  2. ^ "ABC Gets Film Rights - Gilmore's Life". The News and Courier. December 3, 1976. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ Marill, Alvin H. (August 2005). Movies made for television, 1964-2004. Scarecrow Press. pp. 110, 135, 159... ISBN 978-0-8108-5174-0. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ Boylson,Monica, "West Sider's move is made for TV," Delhi-Price Hill Press, Cincinnati, OH, May 11, 2011, page B8
  5. ^ Fries, Chuck (2010). Chuck Fries, godfather of the television movie : a history of television. Beverly Hills, CA: Monte Cristo Publications. p. 44. ISBN 978-1439259887. 
  6. ^ Fries,Chuck, Godfather of the Television Movie - A History of Television, October 2010, Monte Cristo Publications, page 117
  7. ^ Fries,Chuck, Godfather of the Television Movie - A History of Television, October 2010, Monte Cristo Publications, p. 119
  8. ^ "Charles Fries". The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors. Retrieved May 27, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Charles Fries' IMDb profile". Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  10. ^ Kathrine, Bates. "The Color of Rose". Retrieved September 4, 2012. 

External links[edit]