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Former WGAW President and TV Writer Del Reisman Dies at 86

The gifted wordsmith was also a military veteran

Former WGAW president and TV writer Del Reisman died Saturday from cardiac arrest at the age of 86. The WGA just released his official obit, which is pasted below in its entirety:

Los Angeles – Veteran television writer and former Writers Guild of America, West President Del Reisman died on Saturday, January 8, in Toluca Lake of cardiac arrest after a brief illness. He was 86.

Born on April 13, 1924, and a WGAW member since 1965, Reisman was that rare combination of talented writer, true gentleman, and ever-active Guild member. Over the past five decades, Reisman remained a constant and vital presence at both WGAW’s L.A. headquarters and at Guild member and industry events, influencing, impacting, and interacting with countless writers-members through his years of creative work, thoughtful instruction, and tireless service.

Reisman served as WGAW president from 1991-93, as well as the Guild’s vice president from 1987-91, and a member of the WGAW Board of Directors from 1979-87. He also chaired three consecutive WGA Negotiating Committees during the Guild’s rounds of contract negotiations over the years.

Over the years, Reisman also served as chairman or member of over 20 WGAW Committees, including participating on TV Credits, Basic Cable, Strike Study, Outreach, Professional Status of Writers, Blacklist Credits, and President's Task Force on Communication. He was also a longtime member of the Board of Trustees of the Writers Guild Foundation from 1994-2005 and 2007 to the present. For his longtime Guild service, Reisman was awarded the WGAW’s Morgan Cox Award in 1999, given to those Guild members “whose vital ideas, continuing efforts, and personal sacrifice best exemplify the ideal of service to the Guild.”

“Del was a wonderful man, a staunch defender of writers, and a tremendous friend whose many years of selfless service to the Guild have improved working lives for thousands of writers and their families. He will be missed,” said WGAW President John Wells.

“Over the past ten years, our Fellows have benefitted from Del’s exceptional teaching, support, and compassion as they prepare to dive into the scary Hollywood waters. Del was much beloved and he will be dearly missed,” said American Film Institute Dean Robert Mandel.

“He was to me the total package, the best. His friendship improved my life, for which I will be forever grateful,” said past WGAW President Christopher Knopf.

After attending Hollywood High, Reisman graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in English/Journalism.

During World War II, Reisman served with the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1942-45 and was trained as a bombardier on the B-17 Flying Fortress. He was eventually stationed in East Anglia, England, with the 555th Bomb Squadron, 381st Bomb Group (Heavy), 8th Air Force, flying 35 combat missions, mostly over Northern Europe, and achieved the rank of First Lieutenant.

After returning to the States, Reisman, whose mother Rose Judell worked for years in the studio system as executive assistant and script typist, launched his writing career during the “Golden Days” of live television in the 1950s, working on such shows as NBC Matinee Theater, and then as Story Editor for the acclaimed Playhouse 90, on which he worked with producer Martin Manulis, writers Rod Serling, David Shaw, and Robert Alan Aurthur, as well as directors such as John Frankenheimer, George Roy Hill, Arthur Penn, and Arthur Hiller. Later, he served as Story Editor for the original acclaimed The Twilight Zone TV series.

Reisman’s prolific string of TV writing includes writing or co-writing episodes of Peyton Place, Cagney & Lacey, Charlie’s Angels, Magnum P.I., Scarecrow & Mrs. King, The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, Little House on the Prairie, Lou Grant, The Six Million Dollar Man, Flamingo Road, The Blue Knight, Banacek, Harry O, Kung Fu, Ghost Story, Airwolf, and The Yellow Rose (TV’s Alice spin-off), among many hit TV shows. His screen credits include 1973’s The Take (co-written with Franklin Coen, based on a novel by G.F. Newman).

Beyond his legacy of written work, even in his later years, Reisman continued to impact Hollywood’s next generation of writers serving as a faculty member at the American Film Institute, teaching screenwriting in AFI’s Feature Film and Television Development Program for over a decade. He was also a longtime, active member of the Library of Congress’ National Film Preservation Board, playing a key role over the years to help preserve and restore some of our nation’s most important film treasures.

Most recently, Reisman volunteered to participate in the Writers Guild Foundation’s inaugural Veteran Writers Workshop held last May, personally instructing and mentoring Army, Air Force, and Navy war veterans and service personnel in the craft of writing.

Reisman is survived by his niece, Karen Schneider, who resides in Washington D.C., and half-sister Penny Chidgey, who resides in Australia.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in Del Reisman’s name to the Writers Guild Foundation. The date/location of an upcoming WGAW-hosted memorial service is still pending.

(Photo Credit: Joe Rubalcaba)

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