Quinn Martin, 65, Producer of Hit Television Series, Dies

Times Staff Writer

Quinn Martin, producer of some of Hollywood’s best-known television shows, such as “The Untouchables,” “The Fugitive” and “Barnaby Jones,” died Saturday at his home in Rancho Santa Fe. He was 65.

According to his longtime publicist John Strauss, Martin was found in the bathroom of his home by his wife, Muffet, dead of an apparent heart attack.

Martin was known for pioneering fast-paced police, detective and suspense melodramas that proved enormously popular with television audiences for more than two decades. At one point in 1976, his company had four series running simultaneously on the networks: “Cannon,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Streets of San Francisco” and “Bert D’Angelo/Superstar.”

He produced 16 network series, 20 prime-time movies and a feature film, “The Mephisto Walz.”


Martin was born in New York City on May 22, 1922, the son of film editor and producer Martin Cohn. After his family moved to California, he graduated from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley.

With the help of his father, he got a union card and spent his summer vacations as an apprentice editor at MGM. After World War II service in the Air Force, he returned to a film editing job at Universal.

Soon, he turned to writing scripts and became a writer, then producer, at Desilu Productions. While there, he produced a two-hour TV movie in 1959 based on the adventures of G-Man Eliot Ness, called “The Untouchables,” starring Robert Stack. He then developed it into a weekly series that ran for four years and won six Emmy awards.

According to Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh in the “Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows,” the show was controversial when it first appeared in 1959 because “it was perhaps the most mindlessly violent program ever seen on TV up to that time. Critics railed and public officials were incensed.” But the public loved it.


Long-Running Hits

Martin formed QM Productions in 1960, and soon had several long-running hits, among them “The FBI,” starring Efram Zimbalist Jr., which ran nine years from 1965 to 1974, and “The Fugitive,” starring David Janssen, which ran four years, from 1963 to 1967.

In the same way that the bullet-stitched plots of “The Untouchables” were a bellwether for future violent television adventures, “The Fugitive” was a “landmark, a prototype of other shows to come,” The Times’ television critic Howard Rosenberg said.

In this series, a doctor wrongly accused and convicted of killing his wife spent his time traveling the country, taking on different jobs and identities while he searched for the true killer, a one-armed man. “It created a whole genre of shows,” Rosenberg said, with the hero “every week off to a different location, in flight, looking for something that will resolve the situation.”


13-Year Record

The audience watching the final episode of the series in 1967 was the largest for any episode in television history up to that time, a record that remained unbroken until J.R.'s attacker was revealed on “Dallas” 13 years later.

Martin also produced other series, including “The Invaders,”, “The Manhunter,” “Most Wanted” and “Tales of the Unexpected.”

In an interview in 1974, Martin expressed some frustration with cops-and-robbers shows and called them “my curse. When they talk to me they want a cop show.” Television was ready for programs with more intellectual and social depth, he said, “But I can’t sell them. The networks always turn me down.”


Martin sold QM Productions to the Taft Broadcasting Co. in 1979 and moved to Rancho Santa Fe. He served as president of the Del Mar Fair Board, which has jurisdiction over the Del Mar Race Track, was president of the La Jolla Playhouse and was an adjunct professor of drama at Warren College of the University of California, San Diego, where he donated $250,000 for a chair at the school of drama.

Remained in Business

He remained in the film industry, serving as president of QM Communications, which according to publicist Strauss was developing two major motion picture properties for Warner Bros. at the time of Martin’s death.

Aside from his wife, he is survived by three children and his mother. Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Motion Picture and Television Country House in Woodland Hills.