Frank Barron, former cartoon writer and Hollywood Reporter editor, dies at 98

Frank Barron, a cartoon writer for Hanna-Barbera who went on to create an offbeat television western and twice served as editor of the Hollywood Reporter, has died. He was 98.

Barron grew up wanting to be professional baseball player but fell under Hollywood’s spell early, writing radio show material for Red Skelton and Edgar Bergen, creating story lines for Hanna-Barbera cartoons and proudly keeping track of the A-listers he came to know — Walt Disney, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Steven Spielberg.

In 1959, he created the western series “The Man From Blackhawk,” the story of an insurance investigator who finds himself drifting across the violent west as he checks out claims of fraud and thievery.

The show — which starred Robert Rockwell and featured an appearance by a then-young Henry Dean Stanton — lasted one season. Barron maintained its success was undone by a writer’s strike.

Born in Elizabeth, N.J., on Feb. 5, 1919, Barron started selling stories to Boys’ Life magazine when he was young and became a part-time sports writer for the Newark Evening News when he was in high school.

He had hopes of simultaneously being a professional baseball player and sportswriter — “writing about the major leagues as an insider.” The first part of that equation never came to pass.

He was drafted into the Army on the eve of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and was stationed in England. When he got out in 1945, he returned to New Jersey and worked as the sports editor for the Asbury Park Press. He later helped run several Air Force base newspapers near Tokyo.

When Barron moved west, he wrote for the “Woody Woodpecker” and “Popeye” cartoon shows before moving over to Hanna-Barbera, where he helped develop story lines for the studio, which at the time was the powerhouse of animated programming for television.

He later became the head writer for “The Pinky Lee Show,” a variety program for children that helped pound out the mold for future after-school programming.

Barron was twice the editor of the Hollywood Reporter — in the mid-1960s, and again in the late ’70s. At the time, the trade publication was owned and published by Tichi Wilkerson Kassel.

Later in his career, he appeared — albeit briefly — in the 1980 film “The Man with Bogart’s Face,” cast as a reporter.

Barron, who died in North Hills on Oct. 23 of natural causes, is survived by his wife, Margie.

steve.marble@latimes.com

Twitter: @stephenmarble

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