Richard Levinson, who with his boyhood partner William Link, wrote some of the most memorable and profitable programs in television history, died early Thursday at his Brentwood home of an apparent heart attack.
The co-author and/or producer of such series as “Columbo,” “Mannix” and “McCloud” and such films for television as “The Execution of Private Slovik,” “That Certain Summer” and “Crisis at Central High” was 52 and had no previous history of heart trouble, said Ben Halpern, a spokesman for Universal Studios.
Levinson and Link had been under contract to Universal for the past several years, culminating a career that started when they met on the first day of junior high school in Philadelphia.
They both attended the University of Pennsylvania, writing for college shows and founding a humor magazine, and both subsequently went into military service.
They continued their collaboration even in the service, selling scripts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. for the old “General Motors Presents” TV drama series and then relocated to Los Angeles.
Here they sold a military drama, “Chain of Command” to “Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse” which was chosen by TV Guide as one of the best dramas of the year.
They next wrote a play, “Prescription: Murder,” which after a 30-week national tour became the genesis for “Columbo,” the Peter Falk vehicle that ran for seven successful seasons and brought them one of their two Emmy awards. The other was for “My Sweet Charlie,” a TV film about an interracial relationship between a pregnant Southern girl and a black man.
All told, they were nominated for nine Emmys and one Tony for their play “Merlin,” a musical about Camelot’s mythical magician.
In all they created or consulted on a dozen series, including “Murder She Wrote,” “Jericho” and “The Adventures of Ellery Queen.”
They also were honored by the Writers Guild of America for lifetime achievement in television writing while winning a Peabody Award for “Slovik” and an Image Award from the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.”
Levinson and Link also collaborated on two novels, “Fineman” and “The Playhouse” and two books based on their work together, “Stay Tuned” and “Off Camera.”
Levinson is survived by his wife, Rosanna, a daughter, Christine, and his father, William, all of whom ask contributions in his name to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.