Marshall Flaum dies at 85; award-winning documentary maker

Marshall Flaum, an award-winning producer, director and writer who specialized in documentaries, died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications after hip surgery, his family said. He was 85.

Flaum won five Emmy Awards, had several more nominations and was twice nominated for an Academy Award, for the documentaries “The Yanks Are Coming (1963) and “Let My People Go: the Story of Israel” (1965). Flaum wrote, directed and produced both documentaries.

“His flair for drama and entertainment made those documentaries stand out,” said his daughter, Erica, a film editor. “His view of history was very cultural and not very dry.... It was very important to him to have some kind of historical story. You always had the feeling of the times.”


Marshall Allen Flaum was born Sept. 13, 1925, in Brooklyn. After serving in the Army during World War II, he studied acting at the University of Iowa, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1948.

After graduating, he appeared on Broadway with Basil Rathbone in “Julius Caesar” and Olivia de Havilland in “Romeo and Juliet” while studying with famed acting teacher Lee Strasberg.

In 1957 Flaum joined CBS and worked as a writer, story editor and associate producer on “The Twentieth Century.” He twice won Emmys for writing segments of the program.

Flaum moved to Hollywood in 1962 to work for David L. Wolper’s company, where his other credits included “The Battle of Britain” and “Hollywood: The Selznick Years.”

His work with Jacques Cousteau resulted in two Emmys as executive producer of “The Unsinkable Sea Otter” and “A Sound of Dolphins,” episodes of “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” Flaum also won an Emmy as executive producer of “ Jane Goodall and the World of Animal Behavior: The Wild Dogs of Africa.”

In addition to his daughter, Flaum is survived by his wife of 62 years, Gita; son Seth, also a film editor; two grandchildren; and his sister June Flaum Singer. Services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills.