Meta Rosenberg, 89; Agent, ‘Rockford Files’ Producer

Times Staff Writer

Meta Rosenberg, Emmy-winning executive producer of the durable television series “The Rockford Files,” talent agent and exhibited photographer, has died. She was 89.

Rosenberg died Dec. 30 in her sleep of unspecified causes at her Beverly Hills home.

Actor James Garner, one of Rosenberg’s clients, brought her into producing in her late 50s when he asked her to work with him on “The Rockford Files.” They created a hit series, starring Garner as a private eye, that ran on NBC from 1974 to 1980.

“I was extremely fond of Meta,” Garner said in a statement after her death. “Our working relationship was a great success and I will always cherish the wonderful memories.”


David Chase, who wrote for “Rockford” and went on to create, write and produce HBO’s “The Sopranos,” called Rosenberg “a complete original. And totally, absolutely fearless.”

“Those snarling Universal apparatchiks that had the rest of us on the lot cowed, she ate them for breakfast,” he said in a statement. “She led an extraordinary adventure of a life through the force of her personality, her genius and her charm. She was a successful woman in a ‘man’s’ industry.”

One of Rosenberg’s Emmys was for being executive producer of the 1980 television movie “Off the Minnesota Strip,” which Chase wrote.

Rosenberg grew up in Los Angeles, and traced her lifelong love of storytelling to hearing stories from “The History of English Literature” read by her father, a real estate agent.

She graduated from Hollywood High School at the age of 15 with hopes of attending Wellesley or Smith College. When her mother insisted that she stay closer to home and attend UCLA, she rebelled and went to work at a Hollywood bookstore -- learning even more about literature and writers.

She soon landed a job as a story editor in the literary department of 20th Century Fox and after working briefly in a New York agency, became head of the story department at Paramount.

“There were no women executives at that time, so I was kind of a freak,” she told The Times in 2001. “But because I was young enough and arrogant enough, I got along.”

After marrying talent agent George “Rosey” Rosenberg in 1947, she began working with him, representing writers and actors. She also sold innovative series to television networks, including “Julia,” starring Diahann Carroll as an African American nurse and single mother; “Hogan’s Heroes,” a comedy set in a World War II German prison camp; and “Ben Casey,” among the first series showcasing medicine as drama.


Throughout her career, Rosenberg pursued an interest in photography -- collecting the works of internationally known photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams and Irving Penn and aiming her own Leica camera at street scenes from Los Angeles to Paris.

One of her favorite subjects was children. “You get an immediate response of a kind of humanity from small children that you don’t get from adults. They are absolutely themselves in front of the camera. There is no facade,” she told The Times in 2001.

That year, 30 of Rosenberg’s black-and-white images were exhibited in a one-woman show at the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica.

Although she never considered herself a professional photographer, her photos have sold for as much as $3,000.


Widowed in 1969, Rosenberg is survived by her daughter, Amy Oie, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is pending. Contributions in her memory may be sent to the Trinity Care Hospice Foundation, 2601 Airport Drive, Suite 230, Torrance, CA 90505, or to Helping Our Mobile Elderly, 1020 Rose Ave., Venice, CA 90291.