Robert Katz, a film and television producer best known for Gettysburg, Selena and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, died June 22 at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, CA following a long battle with lung cancer. He was 79. His death was confirmed by his family.
Katz was born February 7, 1943 in Los Angeles, where he grew up, graduated high school and attended college.
He served in the U.S. Marines as a jet fighter pilot. In the mid 1960s, he was detailed to Israel, where he helped to train the Israeli Air Force. Following his honorable discharge, he was a bush pilot in Africa, traveling with documentary film crews. This inspired him to become a filmmaker, and he produced more than 70 documentaries for French and American television about the wars of liberation in Africa, accompanying the independence forces in what is now Zimbabwe, as well as neighboring countries.
He was a founder of a medical education company, Medcom, Inc., which he successfully took public. Katz was also an early pioneer in the home video market, producing exercise projects with Jane Fonda, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many others. His time abroad gave him an entry point into the international sales and licensing of films.
In 1986, he co-founded Esparza/Katz Productions along with Moctesuma Esparza. Together, they produced more than 20 projects including the theatrical motion pictures Telephone (1989), Gettysburg (1993), Granada (1996), Selena (1997) which won an Imagen Award as Best Picture, and Gods and Generals (2003). Their television projects included Rough Riders (1997), Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999) which received an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Made for TV Movie, and Walkout (2006).
In 1988 Katz produced Shoeshine, which won an Oscar nomination in the Best Live Action Short Film category.
Most recently, Katz was working on a variety of projects including a feature-length motion picture, Delfino’s Journey, based on the novel and screenplay by Jo Harper. He was also working on a miniseries about the life of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, based on his bestselling autobiography It Doesn’t Take a Hero. On the Schwarzkopf project, he is one of the executive producers.
An avid aviation enthusiast, Katz was a founding member of Showhawks, an entertainment industry flying club based in Los Angeles.
Katz is survived by his wife, Patricia Brown; along with a stepdaughter, Victoria Flores and two step-grandchildren, Skyler, 17, and Adysun, 15, from a prior marriage to Pamela Katz who preceded him in death, as did his first wife, Tishialu Katz.
Burial will take place at Mount Olive Memorial Park on June 26 at 11 a.m. PT. The cemetery address is 7231 E. Slauson Ave., Commerce, CA 90040.