Deanne Barkley may not have an immediately recognizable name, but during her career, she certainly left a mark on the television industry.
According to a Friday report from Deadline, the former exec and producer, who served both ABC and NBC, died April 2 at age 82.
Born in 1931 New Orleans, Barkley was already working in the early days of television interviewing game show contestants by the 1950s, the website noted.
By 1972, she had risen through the ranks to the position of vice-president for ABC’s made-for-TV movies division, which was already popular in part for Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg, and the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning Brian’s Song.
From 1969 to 1976, the ABC Movies of the Week banner also gave life to such series as The Six Million Dollar Man and Starsky and Hutch, according to the book The ABC Movie of the Week Companion by Michael Karol.
From the year Barkley took over as VP until the end of the Movies of the Week run, the network would produce an astounding 180 features, including standouts like Matt Helm, Winter Kill, Moon of the Wolf, Scream of the Wolf, Outrage, Trilogy of Terror, Wonder Woman, Brenda Starr, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.
Barkley had relocated to NBC in 1978 and immediately made an impact by green-lighting Centennial, the mini-series adaptation of James Michener’s novel. Two years later, she would do the same for James Clavell’s Shogun.
It was also at NBC that Barkley made two decisions that continue to impact movie audiences today. That’s when she gave a red-haired 24-year-old actor his first chance to direct with the TV movie Cotton Candy.
That young man had previously been known to audiences as Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham on the successful series The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days.
Barkley, however, would help to change the direction of Ron Howard’s life by allowing him the directorial credit and by introducing him to frequent collaborator Brian Grazer.
Here’s a little of that sweet Cotton Candy action for your enjoyment:
Grazer has since worked with Howard as a producer for the films A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code, and Apollo 13, to name a few.
Their next project could include The Graveyard Book adaptation (from the Neil Gaiman children’s book), and they recently filmed the Made in America event for Jay-Z, which will probably turn up commercially later this year.
As for the rest of Deanne Barkley’s career, she stayed in television as a writer and producer throughout the 1980s with credits on Dallas and Falcon Crest.
In 1988, she penned Freeway, her first and only novel, before retiring from show business that same year. Her cause of death was not disclosed on Friday.
Do you remember those classic ABC Movies of the Week championed by Deanne Barkley? Which were your favorites?