Norman Katkov dies at 91; scriptwriter and novelist


Norman Katkov, a writer who started his long career crafting articles for newspapers and magazines and moved on to television scripts and novels, died Sept. 13 at his Los Angeles home of age-related causes, his son Richard said. He was 91.

“A Cardinal Act of Mercy,” a two-part episode of the ABC-TV medical drama “Ben Casey,” was nominated in 1963 for Emmys for Katkov’s writing and Sydney Pollack’s direction, as well as the work of a team of editors. Kim Stanley won the Emmy for outstanding single performance by an actress, and Glenda Farrell took home the best supporting actress trophy. Times TV critic Cecil Smith called Katkov’s script “a masterful piece of work.” In assessing the work of Stanley as a hospitalized attorney addicted to narcotics who is being treated by Dr. Casey, played by Vince Edwards, Smith wrote: “I think it is valuable that Mr. Katkov’s addict is portrayed not as some seamy bum but as an intelligent, forceful, competent human, caught in her need for this crutch.”

Then the critic cited an exchange between the characters:

Doctor: “Have you tried psychiatry?”

Patient: “And suicide.”

Katkov wrote for many other TV series, mainly in the 1960s and ‘70s, including the Steve McQueen western “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “The Virginian,” “Ironside” and “Mission: Impossible.”


Among his screenplays were “It Happened to Jane,” a 1959 comedy starring Doris Day and Jack Lemmon, and “Viva Knievel!,” a 1977 drama featuring stunt motorcyclist Evel Knievel.

Despite the professional success Katkov had in TV and film, he preferred the dramatic medium of the novel.

His first novel, “Eagle at My Eyes,” published in 1948 by Doubleday, revolved around the complications of a Jewish-Gentile marriage. He followed the next year with “A Little Sleep, a Little Slumber,” but movie and TV scripts took up most of his time and effort over the next few decades.

Katkov received good notices in 1983 for “Blood and Orchids,” his fictional account of the Massie Case, a notorious 1930s rape trial in Honolulu. According to a New York Times review, “It is written in direct, narrative style, with many flashbacks that tell you about things as they were, so that you understand things as they are.”

Three years later, Katkov capped his career by writing the script for the TV miniseries of the story, which starred Kris Kristofferson.

Born July 26, 1918, in what is now Ukraine, Katkov was a child when his family immigrated to the United States, settling in St. Paul, Minn. After receiving a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota in 1940, he got a job as a police reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. During World War II, he served stateside in the Army and later worked as a reporter at the now-defunct New York World Telegram.


He began submitting short stories to magazines and was published in Collier’s, the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and others before moving on to novels and scripts.

Besides his son Richard, Katkov is survived by his wife of 58 years, Betty; another son, William; four grandchildren; and two brothers, Robert and Morris.