Paul Junger Witt


Producer

About

Also Known As
Paul Witt
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
March 20, 1943
Died
April 27, 2018
Cause of Death
Cancer

Biography

A distinguished TV producer whose prolific career began in the 1960s, Paul Junger Witt has extensive credits that reflect a flair for classy comedy vehicles characterized by fine ensemble acting and boosted by the writing of his partner and later wife, Susan Harris, who created several of the series from Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions. Witt began his career in the mid-60s, eventually wor...

Family & Companions

Susan Harris
Wife
Screenwriter, producer. Married after partnering in successful Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions.

Biography

A distinguished TV producer whose prolific career began in the 1960s, Paul Junger Witt has extensive credits that reflect a flair for classy comedy vehicles characterized by fine ensemble acting and boosted by the writing of his partner and later wife, Susan Harris, who created several of the series from Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions. Witt began his career in the mid-60s, eventually working as a producer and director on such series as "Here Come the Brides" and "The Partridge Family." In 1970, while still at Screen Gems, he produced the Emmy-winning TV-movie about the true story of a friendship across racial lines between football players, "Brian's Song" (ABC, 1971). But perhaps more significantly, it was on this production that Witt became close with the associate producer, Tony Thomas, and the duo decided to work together.

By 1972, Witt was president of Danny Thomas Productions (owned by Tony's father). After producing several TV-movies and the ill-fated series "The Practice" and "Fay," they struck out on their own, forming Witt-Thomas Productions, and, additionally, Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions for projects they would do in tandem with writer Susan Harris. (She was particularly known for having written the abortion episode of TV's "Maude.") Witt-Thomas-Harris hit pay-dirt relatively quickly with "Soap," the zany ABC series lampooning the serial form and satirizing (sometimes with a serious edge) such issues as infidelity, homosexuality, alien abductions and a host of peccadilloes which may have previously been unknown to humankind. The series ran through 1981 with pressure groups squawking all along, but the fertile, imaginative program broke much new ground, launched the careers of Billy Crystal and Robert Guillaume and won critical kudos.

In 1979, Witt and company created the even more successful "Benson" (ABC), starring Guillaume. Their next success came with NBC's "The Golden Girls" (1985-92), the often ribald sitcom about four widows living together in Miami, again created by Harris. That series brought Witt and his partners a pair of Emmy Awards for Best Comedy Series. An outgrowth of this series was "Empty Nest" (NBC, 1988-95), also a success. While there were also flops, such as "Tough Cookies" (CBS, 1986), "Heartland" (CBS, 1989), and "Lenny" (CBS, 1990), Witt's companies were among the dominant forces in situation comedy well into the 90s, when "Herman's Head" ran on Fox from 1991-94, and both "Blossom" (1991-94) and "The John Larroquette Show" (1993-96) were on NBC. At its peak, Witt-Thomas boasted seven series simultaneously on the air, more than many of the studios. Witt-Thomas also tried its hand at dramatic series with "Beauty & The Beast" (CBS, 1987-90), but although the critics received the show with solid notices, it developed only a cult audience. Nevertheless, Witt-Thomas earned an Emmy nomination for Best Dramatic Series in 1988.

Witt-Thomas had long had aspirations to break into film production as well. Their first effort, "First Born" (1984), did not succeed, but after NBC bought "The Golden Girls," Witt-Thomas made a deal with Disney/Touchstone giving the studio syndication rights to the series in exchange for backing in feature films. Disney put Witt and Thomas together with New York-based producer Steven Haft, who had a property in need of shepherding. The result was "Dead Poet's Society," one of the hit films of 1989, which earned several Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. In 1992, Witt-Thomas departed Touchstone for Warner Bros., but "Final Analysis" (1992) and "Mixed Nuts" (1994) both failed to ignite the box office.

Filmography

 

Producer (Feature Film)

A Better Life (2011)
Producer
Wicked Ways (2004)
Producer
INSOMNIA (2002)
Producer
Three Kings (1999)
Producer
Radiant City (1996)
Executive Producer
Mixed Nuts (1994)
Producer
Blossom in Paris (1993)
Executive Producer
Final Analysis (1992)
Producer
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Producer
Firstborn (1984)
Producer
Trouble in High Timber Country (1980)
Executive Producer
Griffin and Phoenix (1976)
Executive Producer
High Risk (1976)
Executive Producer
Satan's Triangle (1975)
Executive Producer
The Gun and the Pulpit (1974)
Executive Producer
Remember When (1974)
Producer
Blood Sport (1973)
Executive Producer
The Letters (1973)
Producer
A Cold Night's Death (1973)
Producer
Home for the Holidays (1972)
Producer
No Place to Run (1972)
Producer
Brian's Song (1971)
Producer

Cast (Special)

Intimate Portrait: Bea Arthur (2003)
The Golden Girls: Their Greatest Moments (2003)
Interviewee
Intimate Portrait: Park Overall (2000)

Producer (Special)

Country Estates (1993)
Executive Producer
Blossom (1990)
Executive Producer
We'll Take Manhattan (1990)
Executive Producer
Time Warner Presents the Earth Day Special (1990)
Executive Producer
The Line (1987)
Executive Producer
Moscow Bureau (1986)
Executive Producer
Hearts of Steel (1986)
Executive Producer
The Arena (1986)
Executive Producer
Just Married (1985)
Executive Producer
Daughters (1977)
Executive Producer
Bobby Jo and the Big Apple Goodtime Band (1972)
Producer
A Knight in Shining Armour (1971)
Producer

Life Events

1965

Producer and director working with Screen Gems (later Columbia Pictures TV)

1970

Was producer and director on "The Partridge Family"

1971

Produced TV-movie "Brian's Song"

1976

Formed Witt-Thomas and Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions (with Tony Thomas and Susan Harris)

1977

First hit series, "Soap" (ABC)

1979

First hit spin-off, "Benson" (ABC)

1984

Feature producing debut, "Firstborn"

1989

Produced (with Steven Haft and Tony Thomas) "Dead Poets Society"

1992

Pacted with Warner Bros. for feature film productions

1999

Served as one of the producers of the feature "Three Kings"

Videos

Movie Clip

Dead Poets Society (1989) - As Tough As They Say After the churchy opening of the prep school term, cohorts begin their greetings, Neil, Todd, Cameron, Charlie, Meeks and Knox (Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Dylan Kussman, Gale Hansen, Allelon Ruggiero, Josh Charles), plus Neil's father (Kurtwood Smith), in Dead Poets Society, 1987.
Dead Poets Society (1989) - Seize The Day Having abandoned the classroom, Keating (Robin Williams) unveils his approach to poetry for Meeks, Pitts, Neil, Charlie, Todd (Allelon Ruggerio, James Waterson, Robert Sean Leonard, Gale Hansen, Ethan Hawke) and friends, a famous scene from Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society, 1989.
Dead Poets Society (1989) - Who's In? The prep school gang led by Neil (Robert Sean Leonard) gets background on their eclectic new English teacher Keating (Robin Williams), who reveals the truth to Knox, Charlie, Meeks, Todd (Josh Charles, Gale Hansen, Allelon Ruggiero, Ethan Hawke) et al, in Peter Weir's Dead Poet's Society, 1989.
Three Kings (1999) - Ghosts Of Vietnam Director David O. Russell's arresting opening sequence, followed by fuller introduction of reporter Adriana (Nora Dunn), Troy (Mark Wahlberg) and sidekick Vig (Spike Jonze), in the Gulf War comic-drama Three Kings, 1999.
Three Kings (1999) - Proctology Tent Major Gates (George Clooney) finds Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Elgin (Ice Cube) and Vig (Spike Jonze) examining the map pulled from an orifice of an Iraqi prisoner, in director David O. Russell's Three Kings, 1999.
Three Kings (1999) - She's Traumatized Taking shelter with Iraqi refugees who helped them escape with stolen gold bullion, Vig (Spike Jonze), Elgin (Ice Cube) and Gates (George Clooney) get into a dispute with Amir (Cliff Curtis), whose wife was executed, in director David O. Russell's Three Kings, 1999.

Trailer

Family

Jacob Malcomb Witt
Father
Helen Lawrence Witt
Mother
Christopher Witt
Son
From first marriage.
Anthony Witt
Son
From first marriage.
Genevieve Witt
Daughter
From first marriage.

Companions

Susan Harris
Wife
Screenwriter, producer. Married after partnering in successful Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions.

Bibliography