Entertainment

Norman S. Powell, Emmy-nominated producer of 24 and a longtime CBS executive, dies at 86 

Norman S. Powell, whose six-decade career included stints as a producer for 24 and an executive at CBS, has died at age 86.

Powell died Wednesday of acute respiratory failure, according to his publicist. 

The longtime television fixture, whose career goes back to the 1950s, was the son of legendary Hollywood stars Joan Blondell and Dick Powell.

TV icon: Norman S. Powell, who produced the second season of 24 and worked 13 years as a CBS executive, died Wednesday at 86; seen in 2016 in Beverly Hills

Powell was twice nominated for Emmy awards, first for the 1977 ABC miniseries Washington Behind Closed Doors, and then decades later for producing the second season of the controversial terrorism thriller 24 from 2002–2003.

He was also responsible for greenlighting the pilot that led to the popular police procedural Cagney & Lacey, the first series to feature female detective partners as its leads. 

In the midst of Powell’s career, he worked as an executive at CBS for 13 years, where he became a senior vice president for the network’s Entertainment Productions division and supervised numerous TV movies and shows, including the feature-length Cagney & Lacey pilot.

Powell was born in 1934 to Blondell and her first husband, cinematographer George Barnes. 

Blondell was best known for appearing in Busby Berkeley musicals and bawdy films made prior to the introduction of the Production Code censorship guidelines, though she had major roles late in life in John Cassavetes’ Open Night (1977) and Grease (1978).

Acclaimed: Powell was twice nominated for Emmy awards, first for the 1977 ABC miniseries Washington Behind Closed Doors, and then decades later for producing the second season of the controversial terrorism thriller 24 from 2002–2003; still from 24

Acclaimed: Powell was twice nominated for Emmy awards, first for the 1977 ABC miniseries Washington Behind Closed Doors, and then decades later for producing the second season of the controversial terrorism thriller 24 from 2002–2003; still from 24

TV legacy: He greenlit the Cagney & Lacey pilot while serving for more than a decade as an executive for CBS

TV legacy: He greenlit the Cagney & Lacey pilot while serving for more than a decade as an executive for CBS

She later married Murder My Sweet and Pitfall star Dick Powell, who costarred with her in several musicals. He went on to adopt her son, who was born Norman Scott Barnes.

After attending Cornell University, Powell’s career began in the 1950s, when he worked as a production manager on several Western TV shows, including Gunsmoke, The Rifleman and Wanted: Dead Or Alive. 

After graduation to producing, he would helm shows including The New Dick Van Dyke Show, The Lazarus Man for TNT, CBS’ Orleans, which featured Dallas star Larry Hagman, and AMC’s The Lot, featuring Holland Taylor.

He was involved in numerous telefilms, including the Rob Reiner and Penny Marshall film More Than Friends (1978), the Jon Voight–starring Convict Cowboy from 1995 and Black Fox from the same year, which starred Superman’s Christopher Reeve shortly before he was paralyzed from an equestrian accident.

Hollywood royalty: Powell was born to the actress Joan Blondell and cinematographer George Barnes. Her second husband, legendary actor Dick Powell, later adopted him; Blondell and Powell seen in 1937

Hollywood royalty: Powell was born to the actress Joan Blondell and cinematographer George Barnes. Her second husband, legendary actor Dick Powell, later adopted him; Blondell and Powell seen in 1937

Reboot: Among the most high-profile shows Powell produced was The New Dick Van Dyke Show; Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke seen on the original Dick Van Dyke show

Reboot: Among the most high-profile shows Powell produced was The New Dick Van Dyke Show; Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke seen on the original Dick Van Dyke show

Other shows Powell produced later in life included the 2006 season of the CBS action drama The Unit.

Although he was best known as a producer, Powell also stepped behind the camera to direct the 2003 documentary American Valor, which focused on soldiers who have received the Medal of Honor.

He was in the midst of writing a memoir shortly before his death, and had also begun work on a sequel to his 2009 documentary Brothers at War.

The industry icon had long been a member of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and served on the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors as its chair for two terms. 

Powell is survived by his wife, Ellen Levine, and their son Matthew, as well as his two children from his first marriage to Ann Traub, Sandra Espe and Scott Powell, plus his daughter-in-law, Laurie. He’s also survived by his sister Ellen Powell, plus his sister-in-law and brother-in-law Lisa and Kenneth Brownstein, and two great-grandchildren. 

Donations in his memory can be made to the Gary Sinise Foundation or to the Caucus Foundation.

Director: Although he was best known as a producer, Powell also stepped behind the camera to direct the 2003 documentary American Valor, which focused on soldiers who have received the Medal of Honor; seen with Marine Sgt. Nick Popaditch, and and producer Lee Miller

Director: Although he was best known as a producer, Powell also stepped behind the camera to direct the 2003 documentary American Valor, which focused on soldiers who have received the Medal of Honor; seen with Marine Sgt. Nick Popaditch, and and producer Lee Miller


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