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Hollywood producer Arthur Gardner dies at 104

Hollywood producer Arthur Gardner dies at 104
Arthur Gardner in 2012. The longtime producer, best known for the TV series "The Rifleman," died Friday at 104. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Longtime Hollywood producer Arthur Gardner, a voting member of the motion picture academy as a centenarian, died Friday of natural causes at Sunrise Beverly Hills Assisted Living, said his son, Steven. He was 104.

Gardner joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences more than a half-century ago when he first became a producer.

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The last film he produced was "Safari 3000" in 1982.

"He wouldn't do anything in life but be in the business," Steven said of his father's love for Hollywood.

Born Arthur Goldberg in 1910, Gardner was raised in Wisconsin and moved to Los Angeles in 1929 at 18 with dreams of becoming an actor. Like many Jewish actors at the time, he changed his name because of fears of anti-Semitism, he told The Times in an interview.

One of the first movies he was cast in was "All Quiet on the Western Front."  It was a small role, but during that time he met George Cukor, the filmmaker who would go on to direct "A Star Is Born" and "My Fair Lady," Gardner told The Times.

During World War II, he served in the Army's first motion picture unit, making educational and other films under Ronald Reagan. When the war ended, Gardner turned to producing, making his debut with a 1952 serial-killer B movie titled "Without Warning!"

During his career, Gardner worked with Chuck Connors and Barbara Stanwyck, as well as John Wayne on one of the actor's final films, 1974's "McQ."

“The Rifleman,” the popular 1950s Western television series, was one of Gardner's best-known works.
Johnny Crawford, who starred in the show along with Chuck Connors, told The Times he adored Gardner.
"He was just a class act," Crawford said. "I always admired him as a kid." 
Crawford played Mark McCain, Lucas McCain's son, on the show that ran for five seasons on ABC. 
"He was unlike so many other producers who were all business," Crawford said. "He was a wonderful guy."
Gardner, who according to Steven said he did not have a favorite movie but rather loved them all, was an active voter for the Academy until he was 100. That also happens to be the year he threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium. 
A complete obituary will follow at latimes.com/obits

Follow Ryan Parker for breaking news at @theryanparker and on Facebook

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