March 30, 2010 / 3:08 AM / 9 years ago

Michael Rosenfeld, co-founder of CAA, dies

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Michael Rosenfeld, a founding partner at Creative Artists Agency who shaped such showbiz classics as “West Side Story,” “Mary Poppins” and “Rich Man, Poor Man,” died March 25 of respiratory failure in Los Angeles after a long illness. He was 75.

Rosenfeld, whose son Michael Rosenfeld and daughter-in-law Sonya Rosenfeld have followed in his footsteps at CAA, played a huge role in the growth and success of the Hollywood talent agency. He started the firm’s literary department, developing relationships with two giants in the field, Mort Janklow and Sterling Lord, before leaving in the early 1980s for a career as a producer.

A Philadelphia native with a talent for music, Rosenfeld began in the mailroom at William Morris in 1957, then moved to the firm’s Los Angeles office in 1959. He co-founded CAA with Bill Haber, Ron Meyer, Michael Ovitz and Rowland Perkins in 1975.

Rosenfeld represented Rita Moreno and George Chakiris and secured their roles in the 1961 film version of “West Side Story,” for which they both won Oscars (the film took home a staggering 10 trophies). He also persuaded Disney to cast Dick Van Dyke in his iconic role in “Mary Poppins” (1964); the film was nominated for 13 Oscars and won five.

Rosenfeld also represented William Link and Richard Levinson, the creative team behind TV hits “Columbo,” “Mannix” and “Murder, She Wrote,” and sold the first miniseries, “Rich Man, Poor Man” (1976), to ABC (that project collected four Emmys and 23 noms). He also brought together the creative elements for MGM’s musical hit “Fame” (1980).

Rosenfeld also represented Marlo Thomas, Joanne Woodward, Ann-Margret, Eva Marie Saint and Dyan Cannon, among others.

After leaving CAA, Rosenfeld produced the skateboard cult classic “Thrashin’” (1986) and “Flowers in the Attic” (1987). He also produced the 1984 miniseries “Fatal Vision,” which won an Emmy for actor Karl Malden, and the 1989 telefilm “The Case of the Hillside Stranglers.”

Rosenfeld was born June 28, 1934, to Maxwell Rosenfeld, a Pennsylvania state senator, and Edith Rosenfeld Ginsburg. At 11, he appeared on the “Horn and Hardart Children’s Hour” playing the guitar, and began composing music at 16, first at Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia and then at Penn State.

In addition to Michael and Sonya — who both have a hand in literary work at CAA — Rosenfeld is survived by his sons Maxwell and Jackson; his daughter Molly; his daughter-in-law Glenele; his grandchildren Casey, Willy and Hannah; and his aunt, Gertrude Mandell.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. April 8 at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the CAA Foundation.

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