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Broadway and Film Producer Norman Twain Passes Away at 85


Norman Twain, 85, a prominent theatrical producer in New York and California in the 1960's and 1970's who later became a successful and award-winning film producer, died Saturday morning, August 6th, after a brief illness.

Born in Atlantic City, Mr. Twain graduated from Columbia University and initially made his mark off-Broadway producing Tennessee Williams' "Garden District" and Maxwell Anderson's "The Golden Six". He made his Broadway debut with a critically lauded revival of John Osborne and Anthony Creighton's "Epitaph for George Dillon" and then did double-duty as a director and producer of "A Distant Bell" starring Martha Scott. That was followed in rapid succession by the Franco Zefferelli production of "The Lady of the Camellias", Jean Anouilh's "Traveler Without Luggage" which co-starred Ben Gazzara and Mildred Dunnock, "Peterpat", "The Apparition Theater of Prague" and "Cop-Out" which introduced John Guare to Broadway audiences. Mr. Twain brought Charles Aznavour and Gilbert Becaud to New York ("The World of Charles Aznavour" and "Gilbert Becaud on Broadway") and had critical and commercial success with Nicol Williamson's acclaimed "Hamlet", directed by Tony Richardson, as well as "Nicol Williamson's Late Show".

His musicals included "Bajour" which co-starred Chita Rivera, Herschel Bernardi and Nancy Dussault; the Robert Merrill-George Roy Hill collaboration "Henry, Sweet Henry" based on Nunnally Johnson's "The World of Henry Orient"; and the infamous "Lolita, My Love" by Alan Jay Lerner and John Barry, starring Dorothy Loudon. Before decamping to California in the 1970's, Mr. Twain's final New York production was the off-Broadway hit "The World of Lenny Bruce".

Among his productions in Los Angeles , San Francisco and the Long Beach Theatre Festival were David's Rabe's"Streamers" which co-starred Richard Thomas, Bruce Davison,Charles Durning and Ralph Meeker, the Tony Richardson production of "As You Like It", "Cyrano" starring Stacy Keach , the Gower Champion production of "Our Town" and "Jules Feiffer's Hold Me" and Tennessee Williams' "Eccentricities of a Nightingale" starring Sandy Dennis. Mr. Twain also produced ten separate productions, several of which co-starred Elizabeth Ashley and Lesley Ann Warren, of "Vanities" by Jack Heifner. His film career began with "Superman", the television movie based on the Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical and he was Associate Producer of "The Hotel New Hampshire".

His biggest splash came when he produced "Lean on Me" for Warner Bros. Mr. Twain created the idea and developed the script with screenwriter Michael Schiffer; the John Avildsen directed film starring Morgan Freeman won the NAACP Image Award for Best Picture of the Year. Mr. Twain subsequently created and developed the idea and served as Executive Producer of the HBO film "Boycott" starring Jeffrey Wright as Martin Luther King. Nominated as Best Television Film of the Year by the American Film Institute, "Boycott" which dramatized the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama boycott, also won the NAACP Image Award as Best Television Film of the Year and the Peabody Award.

Recent fllms included "Scar", a high definition 3-D horror film, "Spinning Into Butter" starring Sarah Jessica Parker, and the highly praised animated feature "My Dog Tulip", based on the British novel by J.R. Ackerley which featured the voices of Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave, Isabella Rossellini, and Brian Murray. "Tulip" was named by New York Times film critic Stephen Holden as one of the Top Ten Films of 2010 and by Roger Ebert as one of the Best Animated Films of the year.

At the time of his death, Mr. Twain was developing several film properties and was planning a return to Broadway with the play "The Coastline of England".

His first marriage to the actress Sandra Church ended in divorce in 1975. He was married to the actress Deanna Deignan in 1981, who survives him along with his daughter Dena, his son-in-law Timothy Sims and his granddaughters Dylan and Isabelle. Services are private and a memorial will be announced at a later date.

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