Allan Burns, Emmy-Winning Writer and Creator of ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ Dies at 85
Allan Burns, the Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated screenwriter and producer who co-wrote and co-created “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died on Jan. 30, his friend Dan Pasternack confirmed to Variety. He was 85.
His “Mary Tyler Moore Show” co-creator and longtime creative partner, James L. Brooks, announced Burns’ death on Twitter Sunday. “Alan Burns, my writing partner during the Mary Tyler Moore days, died yesterday. His singular writing career brought him every conceivable recognition,” Brooks wrote. “But, you had to know him to appreciate his full rarity. He was simply the finest man I have ever known. A beauty of a human.”
Born on June 14, 1935 in Baltimore, Md., Burns attended the University of Oregon from 1953 to 1957. He got his start in Hollywood working in animation for Jay Ward on shows like “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” “Dudley Do-Right” and “George of the Jungle.” Burns is also credited with creating the Cap’n Crunch character for Quaker’s popular cereal.
Burns then formed a partnership with Chris Hayward, and together they created the series “The Munsters” in 1964 and “My Mother the Car” in 1965. The duo were hired as story editors for the CBS sitcom “He & She,” which earned them an Emmy award for best comedy writing in 1968.
In 1969, Burns and Brooks began working together after Burns saw the pilot for “Room 222.” Burns became a part of the writing staff and later became a producer on the series. Brooks and Burns then developed “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” for CBS, which premiered in 1970 to critical acclaim. The show went on to earn Burns five Emmys, and generated the spin-off shows “Lou Grant” and “Rhoda.” Burns’ other television credits include “Get Smart,” “FM,” “Eisenhower and Lutz” and “Cutters.”
Burns also had success in the film world, writing the screenplay for the 1979 film “A Little Romance,” which earned him an Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay. In addition, Burns wrote the films “Butch and Sundance: The Early Days” in 1979 and “Just the Way You Are” in 1984. Burns made his feature directorial debut with “Just Between Friends” in 1986, starring Moore, Ted Danson and Christine Lahti.
Ed Asner, who played Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and his character’s subsequent spin-off series, also paid tribute to Burns on social media.
“I am so sad at the passing of the Allan Burns. A mensch like no other, a friend and so incredibly talented,” Asner wrote. “Say hello to the gang Allan.”
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