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Lawrence Turman Dies: Oscar-Nominated Producer Of ‘The Graduate’, ‘American History X’ & More Was 96

Oscar-nominated producer Lawrence Turman died Saturday at the Motion Picture and Television Country Home and Hospital. He was 96. He had a stellar career not only as a producer of such seminal films as The Graduate (1967), The Great White Hope (1970), American History X (1998) and many more in a producing career that lasted six decades, but he also took a significant turn when he left his partnership with producer David Foster to head the prestigious Peter Stark Producing Program at USC in 1991, an association that continued until his retirement just two years ago.

His son, John Turman, confirmed the death to Deadline. “Our father Lawrence Turman passed away late yesterday,” he said. “It’s sad, but he had a long and storied life, and it’s the passing of an era.” He added that the MPTF is planning a memorial service as well as USC at a later date.

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Dean Elizabeth M. Daley, Dean of School of Cinematic Arts at USC put out a statement with the news on Sunday night.

“Larry led a remarkable life for 96 years and we were fortunate to share part of it with him.  Larry was a movie industry legend. His fifty-year career gave us classics like The Graduate, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, The Great White HopeThe Thing, and American History X, and made him the expert on the critical role of Producers in film. His book “So You Want to Be a Producer,” is a manual for how to succeed at the job and a tribute to the role. Larry of course impacted all of us at the School of Cinematic Arts as Chair of the Peter Stark Producing Program, which he ran from 1991 until he retired in 2021, transforming the program into a training ground for all disciplines of the industry, and helping define the role of today’s Creative Producer. As he was fond of saying, any film school can teach you how to make a movie, but Stark teaches “how to get movies made.” Without a doubt, Larry was a transformative member of our industry, and our School.  He was a wise mentor and guide. On a personal note, Larry was my dear friend and colleague for almost 40 years, and I will miss him deeply as I know many of you will.  Having him in our lives was a blessing beyond measure. We will announce plans for a celebration of Larry’s life as soon as we have them.”

Turman’s film career began as an agent for the likes of Joan Fontaine and Alan Pakula at the Kurt Frings Agency in the late 1950s. He began his producing career in 1961 with Stuart Millar on The Young Doctors. Other early credits included 1963’s Stolen Hours, starring Susan Hayward, and Judy Garland’s final feature film starring role in I Could Go on Singing. The next year he produced the acclaimed film version of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson.

Around the same time he spent $1,000 to option Charles Webb’s novel The Graduate after reading an early rave review of it. He would spend more than two years trying to sell it, unsuccessfully, to studios before getting wunderkind Mike Nichols attached as director, a wise move since Nichols would go on to an Oscar nomination for his first film, 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Turman would receive his sole Oscar nomination for producing The Graduate, which earned seven nominations in 1967, winning one for Nichols’ direction.

In 2016, I hosted a panel at a celebration of Nichols and the film at the Wallis Theatre in Beverly Hills that featured the very lively 89-year-old Turman, who recalled the long and winding road of bringing it to the screen, along with Buck Henry (who co-wrote the screenplay) and co-star Katherine Ross.

RELATED: Buck Henry Dies: ‘The Graduate’ Writer, ‘Get Smart’ Co-Creator & Early ‘SNL’ Favorite Was 89

Dustin Hoffman encounters Anne Bancroft in ‘The Graduate,’ 1967 (Everett Collection)
Dustin Hoffman encounters Anne Bancroft in ‘The Graduate,’ 1967 (Everett Collection)

Turman’s other films included the 1968 cult classic Pretty Poison with Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld, The Flim Flam Man with George C. Scott, and numerous films in his long-running partnership with Foster that began in 1974 as the Turman Foster Company and ran for 20 years including The Drowning Pool with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Running Scared, Heroes, The Caveman, John Carpenter’s The Thing, The River Wild with Meryl Streep, Short Circuit, Gleaming the Cube and more. Other movies included the 1994 remake of The Getaway, Mass Appeal in 1984, and Tribute in 1980. He also served as a director on 1971’s Marriage of a Young Stockbroker with Richard Benjamin and 1983’s Second Thoughts with Lucie Arnaz. Overall Turman produced over 40 films, including 17 in his partnership with Foster.

Turman was married in 1959 to Suzanne Trieb, an aspiring New York actress who transitioned into interior design, and they had three sons. He is survived by those sons, John (Analuisa Bustanmante), Andrew (Nancy Hyland), and Peter (Sheri Bernstein) and four grandchildren, Audrey Suzanne, Carter Isaac, Georgia Simone, Olivia Veranique, and two nieces, Katherine and Suzanna. He had two other marriages and a last meaningful companionship that comforted him.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests to please consider a donation to the Motion Picture And Television Fund and USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Larry Turman Endowed Fund for the Peter Stark Program.

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