Carl Kleinschmitt, the sitcom writer who worked on The Dick Van Dyke Show and M*A*S*H and created two series starring Sandy Duncan and the football comedy 1st and Ten, has died. He was 85.
Kleinschmitt died Thursday night of complications from MDS cancer (a blood disorder) at his Atwater Village home in Los Angeles, a family spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.
Kleinschmitt, who wrote often with the late Dale McRaven, penned episodes of such other series as Hey Landlord, Good Morning World, The Doris Day Show, That Girl, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Love, American Style, My World and Welcome to It, Karen, Welcome Back, Kotter and The Love Boat.
He also wrote two features: Middle Age Crazy (1980), starring Bruce Dern and Ann-Margret, and Kiss Shot (1989), starring Whoopi Goldberg.
In 1971, Kleinschmitt created the CBS sitcom Funny Face, loosely based on the 1957 Audrey Hepburn film musical of the same name, with Duncan starring as Sandy Stockton, a student teacher who acts and models on the side.
The show was highly touted but dismissed by critics and didn’t survive the year, lasting just 13 episodes. (Duncan also was diagnosed with a tumor behind her left eye and needed surgery, and that contributed to its brief run.)
Kleinschmitt returned the next fall with The Sandy Duncan Show, a retooled comedy with new supporting players (including Tom Bosley) that now had the Stockton character working for an advertising agency. Alas, that version lasted just 13 episodes, too.
He had much better success with HBO’s 1st and Ten, which starred Delta Burke, Reid Shelton and O.J. Simpson and ran for 80 episodes and six seasons from 1984-90.
Carl David Kleinschmitt was born in Los Angeles on Aug. 28, 1937. He grew up in the Atwater Village area and graduated from John Marshall High School. After attending Occidental College, he worked as a copywriter.
In 1963, he met future Happy Days creator Garry Marshall, who introduced him to McRaven, another fledgling writer, and put the pair to work on the fourth and last season of NBC’s The Joey Bishop Show. By 1965, all three were writing for CBS’ The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Kleinschmitt and McRaven wrote nine episodes of the legendary comedy over its final two seasons, sharing a WGA award for their first effort, “Br-rooom, Br-rooom,” in which Rob (Van Dyke) buys a motorcycle.
His first agent and lifelong friend, Arnold Margolin, recounted how Kleinschmitt, when teaming with McRaven, always had to be in control. “Carl and Dale would sit side-by-side at the typewriter, but only Carl was allowed to type,” he said.
Without McRaven, Kleinschmitt received a WGA nomination for his work on the 1973 M*A*S*H episode “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet,” and he was nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 1985 for outstanding children’s series for Pryor’s Place, starring Richard Pryor.
Survivors include his wife of 20 years, Los Angeles artist Pamela Burgess; daughter Kerry; grandchildren Devon and Dustin; and great-grandchildren Natalie and Sophia. Donations in his name may be made to the animal resource center Pasadena Humane.
Kleinschmidt and McRaven shared an office on Sunset Boulevard with Marshall and Jerry Belson and a third writing team, Margolin and Jim Parker. Every five years, they would reunite for lunch and take a photo in front of their old digs.
“We were a zany but productive group who quickly became known as ‘The Sunset Six,’” Margolin, the last surviving member of the group, said. “Between the six writers, we created at least a dozen primetime comedy series, and just as importantly, remained close friends to the end. Five of us were always competing to be the class clown, but Carl was the grown-up of the group — the one who always had to figure out what each of us owed for lunch.”