Martin Starger, Producer of ‘Nashville’ and ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ Dies at 92

Also known for his work on “Mask” and “On Golden Pond,” Starger served as ABC Entertainment’s first president beginning in 1972

Martin Starger
Martin Starger (Credit: Courtesy of Ilene Starger)

Martin Starger, the storied Hollywood producer whose credits included Roger Altman’s “Nashville” and Alan J. Pakula’s “Sophie’s Choice,” died peacefully at his home on Friday night, TheWrap has learned. He was 92 years old.

His niece, casting director Ilene Starger, confirmed the news, telling TheWrap, “He was like a father to me.” She is her uncle’s sole heir and surviving family member.

“He was a brilliant, elegant, remarkable man; he had wonderful taste in projects, and, on a highly personal level, he was like a father to me, given that his older brother, my father, died very suddenly when I was a teenager,” Ilene added.

Martin Starger served as an executive producer on “Movie Movie” (1978), “Autumn Sonata” (1978), “The Muppet Movie” (1979) and “The Last Unicorn” (1982). He received Tony nominations in both 1987 and 1989 for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Starlight Express” and Ken Ludwig play “Lend Me a Tenor.”

Starger also served as the first president of ABC Entertainment in the 1970s and led the organization through one of its creative peaks, which included the creation of shows including “Happy Days” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” as well as the “ABC Movie of the Week.”

“Nashville” kicked off Starger’s career as a producer. He worked first in partnership with Sir Lew Grade (later Lord Grade) at Marble Arch Productions and, after that, with his own production company, Marstar Productions. He produced or executive produced many television projects, such as the Emmy Award-winning “Friendly Fire,” “Escape From Sobibor,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Elephant Man.”

In addition to “Starlight Express,” his Broadway credits included “Sly Fox,” “Lend Me a Tenor” and the original production of “Merrily We Roll Along.”

He was born on May 8, 1932 in the Bronx, New York. He graduated from City College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Motion Picture Techniques and was drafted into the Army in 1953, where he was assigned to the Signal Corps’ motion picture division. While stationed in Hawaii, he created documentaries for the Department of Defense.

Starger moved back to New York following his time in the Army and worked at the advertising agency BBDO before becoming ABC vice president of programs from 1969-1972. He was later named president in 1972, remaining in the position until 1975.

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