Martin Starger, ‘Sophie’s Choice’ and ‘Nashville’ Producer, Dies at 92

Martin Starger, the first president of ABC Entertainment who went on to produce such films as “Sophie’s Choice” and Robert Altman’s “Nashville,” has died. He was 92.

Starger died of natural causes Saturday in his Los Angeles home, his niece, casting director Ilene Starger, announced.

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Starger was born May 8, 1932, in the Bronx, N.Y. He attended the City College of New York, where he received a degree in motion picture techniques. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953 and was assigned to the Signal Corps Motion Picture Location. He served as a motion picture photographer at the U.S. Army’s film production studio. He was sent to U.S. Army Headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii, and worked there in all phases of motion picture production.  He wrote, directed, photographed and edited documentary and feature films for television, the Department of Defense and newsreels.

After his service, Starger spent several years at the ABC television network. He was vice president of programs from 1969 to 1972 and became the first person named as president of ABC Entertainment; he served as president from 1972 to 1975. Throughout his tenure, the network developed its “Movie of the Week” franchise, the miniseries “Roots” and “Rich Man, Poor Man” and series like “Happy Days” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.”

Later, Starger expanded his career into films and theater. While at ABC, he championed Altman’s 1975 film “Nashville,” which he executive produced alongside Jerry Weintraub. This started his producing career and he later founded his own production company, Marstar Productions. He produced or executive produced the TV movies “Friendly Fire,” “Escape From Sobibor,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Elephant Man.”

Starger’s film credits, as producer or executive producer, include “Movie Movie,” “Mask,” “On Golden Pond,” “The Muppet Movie,” “The Great Muppet Caper,” “Autumn Sonata” and “Sophie’s Choice.” His Broadway credits include “Sly Fox,” “Lend Me a Tenor,” “Starlight Express” and the original production of “Merrily We Roll Along.”

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