Emmy® award winning Producer Marian Rees passed away peacefully in Bainbridge Island, Washington on August 26, 2018 at age 90.
During Rees’ illustrious and inspiring career, she was a Vice President of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, two-time President of Women in Film, Co-Chair of the National Council for Families and Television and Vice President of Television for the Producers Guild of America.
Born Marian Jean Rees on October 31, 1927 in Le Mars, Iowa, she was the daughter of Robert and Clarissa Rees. After moving to Carroll, Iowa, she was high school valedictorian and attended the University of Iowa, majoring in Sociology. After graduation in 1952, Rees moved to Los Angeles and began her career as a receptionist at NBC. In 1955, she joined Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin’s company, Tandem Productions and was Associate Producer on legendary television tributes to Frank Sinatra and Ethel Barrymore and the Emmy® winning special An Evening with Fred Astaire. During her tenure at Tandem, she was Associate Producer on the pilots of All in the Family and Sanford & Son.
After 17 years, Rees left Tandem and joined Tomorrow Entertainment and was involved in numerous productions including Orphan Train and the multi-Emmy® award- winning, Tell Me Where It Hurts. She later joined the NRW Company as Vice President and was the Executive Producer of Angel Dusted and The Marva Collins Story, a Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentation, starring Cicely Tyson.
In 1981, Rees formed her own independent production company, Marian Rees Associates, which was rare for a woman at that time. Anne Hopkins, who had worked with Rees at Tandem, also joined the new company. In order to fund her productions, Rees mortgaged her home and eventually persevered when CBS agreed to produce the company’s first television film, Miss All-American Beauty. Following was Between Friends starring Elizabeth Taylor and Carol Burnett for HBO and License to Kill for CBS.
In 1984, Rees rekindled her partnership with Hallmark and produced the landmark Emmy® award winning, Love is Never Silent. The film was originally to be produced at CBS but Rees had promised to hire deaf actors to portray the parents in the film so Hallmark and Rees moved it to NBC, winning the Emmy® for Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special. In the following years Marian Rees Associates films garnered eleven Emmy® awards and thirty-eight nominations, two Golden Globe® Awards, six Christopher Awards, the Humanitas Prize, two Gabriel Awards, numerous Monte Carlo Television Awards and the Peabody Award for their groundbreaking, socially relevant films.
Rees and her partner, Anne Hopkins produced 40 films including Christmas Snow, Resting Place, The Room Upstairs, Foxfire, Little Girl Lost. The Shell Seekers, Home Fires Burning, Decoration Day (which won two Golden Globe® Awards), In Pursuit of Honor, Is There Life Out There? and Miss Rose White, which won the Emmy® for Outstanding Television Movie. Nine of the productions aired as Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentations.
In addition, Rees and Hopkins Executive Produced Ruby Bridges for The Wonderful World of Disney and five films for PBS’ Exxon Mobil Masterpiece Theatre including Cora Unashamed, which won a Peabody Award. In 2007, Rees and Hopkins closed Marian Rees Associates and moved to Bainbridge Island.
Admired for her quality longform productions, brilliant storytelling and integrity, Rees was honored with numerous awards including the Publicist Guild of America Showmanship Award, the Producers Guild of America’s Diversity Award, Woman of the Year by Women in Management, the YWCA Achievement Award, the Genii Award, the National Organization of Women, the Chaim Sheba Humanitarian Award, the Paley Center for Media/MT&R 2006 She Made It Honor, AFI’s Charles W. Fries Producer of the Year Award, the University of Iowa Distinguished Alumni Award and the PGA’s highest honor, the Charles FitzSimons Award.
She served on the Boards of the American Film Institute, Women in Film, The Humanitas Children’s Award, The Center for Population Options, Alternative Living for the Aged and The Producers Guild of America. She was also nominated for Member of the Year by the Caucus for Producers, Writers, Directors and served on the organization’s Steering Committee. In a career spanning over 50 years, Rees was considered a trailblazer and was a mentor to many women in the entertainment industry.
Rees is preceded in death by her parents and her two brothers, Robert and Dennis. She is survived by her longtime companion, Anne Hopkins, her sister Natalie Rees, nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews and a great, great niece.
Services will be held on Saturday, October 20th at 2pm at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church on Bainbridge Island, WA.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to:
The University of Iowa Foundation, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, IA 5224 www.foriowa.org
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Eagle Harbor Congregational Church 105 Winslow Way W, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 www.eagleharborchurch.org