Charles “Chuck” William Fries passed away peacefully surrounded by family on April 22, 2021. He was 92 years old.
Fries enjoyed a prolific career in the film and television industry, spanning over 60 years. He participated in the production of over 5,000 series episodes, 140 television movies and mini-series, and more than 40 theatrical films.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Fries graduated from Ohio State University where he later received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. He began his career at Ziv Television in 1952 where he worked on legendary syndicated shows like “The Cisco Kid,” “Highway Patrol,” “Bat Masterson,” and “Sea Hunt.” From Ziv he moved to Screen Gems in 1960 where he was involved in the production of such classics as “Naked City,” “Route 66,” “Bewitched,” “Hazel,” “The Monkees,” and “Father Knows Best.” Later he oversaw feature film production at Columbia Pictures and worked with top producers and directors in the industry on films such as “Castle Keep,” “The Horseman,” “Easy Rider,” “Five Easy Pieces,” and “Getting Straight.”
Fries pioneered the television movie genre at Metromedia Productions in the ’70s (with over 30 movies for TV and nine television series) and then mastered with his own independent production and distribution company, Fries Entertainment.
Known for issue-oriented movies, Fries Entertainment programs included over 200 hours of content for ABC, CBS, and NBC, including iconic TV movies like “Small Sacrifices” starring Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O’Neal; “The Neon Empire,” a three-hour epic saga starring Ray Sharkey, Martin Landau, and Gary Busey; “Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean” starring Suzanne Pleshette and Lloyd Bridges; “The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury” starring Rock Hudson; “Woman on the Ledge” with Deidre Hall; “Bitter Harvest” starring Ron Howard and Art Carney; “The Word” starring David Jansen and based on the book by Irving Wallace; and the Emmy-nominated “LBJ” starring Randy Quaid and Patty Lupone.
Fries also produced dozens of theatrical films during this time, including “Cat People” with Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, and John Heard; “Out of Bounds” featuring Anthony Michael Hall; the original “Spider-Man” series for foreign markets; and the cult-classic “Troop Beverly Hills” starring Shelly Long and fashioned after his wife Ava’s real-life experience leading a Girl Scout troop.
Chuck was deeply committed to the entertainment industry. He was a lifetime member of the Producer’s Guild and recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award, a former Chair of the American Film Institute, and served in leadership roles in both the Academy of Arts & Television Sciences and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. He was also a guiding force in The Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors for over 45 years, serving five terms as Chair and receiving their most coveted Awards.
Much of Chuck’s history as a renowned Hollywood producer was documented in his memoir “Chuck Fries Godfather of the Television Movie: A History of Television” which was published in October of 2013.
Fries is survived by his wife of 33 years, Ava; seven children; 22 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. He is preceded in death by two children, son Thomas Fries (Debi) and step-daughter Cami Markman.
A private memorial service for family took place April 29. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to The Caucus Foundation (caucusfoundation.org).