Former Writers Guild of America, West vice president, past AMPAS president, and award-winning writer Fay Kanin died at age 95 at her home in Santa Monica, Calif.
Born May 9, 1917, in New York City, Kanin sustained a remarkable career that spanned stage, screen and television over several decades, leaving an indelible impression in entertainment and popular culture.
Kanin launched her screenwriting career in 1942 with the comedy Sunday Punch, co-written with her longtime writing partner and husband, the late Michael Kanin and Allen Rivkin. Fay and Michael Kanin soon co-wrote a string of screenplays for films such as My Pal Gus (1952), Rhapsody (1954, screenplay by Fay and Michael Kanin and Ruth and Augustus Goetz, based on the novel Maurice Guest by Henry Handel Richardson), The Opposite of Sex (1956, adapted from the play The Women by Clare Booth), and the romantic comedy Teacher’s Pet (1958). Her additional screenwriting credits include The Right Approach (1961) and The Swordsman of Siena (1962, screenplay by Fay and Michael Kanin and Alec Coppel, based on a story by Anthony Marshall), and Blondie for Victory (1942, screenplay by Karen De Wolf & Connie Lee Bennett, screen story by Fay Kanin).
Later in her career, Kanin transitioned to television, emerging as a prolific writer-producer of small screen projects including telefilms such as Tell Me Where It Hurts (1974), Hustling (1975), based on the book by Gail Sheehy and Friendly Fire (1979), based on the novel by C.D.B. Bryan, which she wrote and co-produced. In 1980, she partnered with Lillian Gallo to form her own production company Kanin-Gallo, yielding TV movies such as Letting Go and Fun and Games, which received the National Commission of Working Women Broadcast Award. She also penned and co-produced Heartsounds (1984), based on the book by Martha Weiman Lear.
Over the course of her five-decade writing career, Kanin’s film and television projects earned her multiple industry accolades, including two Emmy Awards in 1974 for her work on Tell Me Where It Hurts, a 1975 Writers Guild Award (Anthology Adapted) for Hustling, as well as a 1979 Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama or Comedy Special and a Writers Guild Award for Adapted Anthology in 1980 for Friendly Fire.
A Writers Guild, West member since 1942, Kanin served as WGAW council vice president from 1973-75, secretary-treasurer of the WGAW council screen branch (1967-70), as vice president of the WGAW council screen branch (1969-71) and as president of the WGAW council screen branch (1971-73).
Kanin earned multiple WGAW honorary and service awards. In 2005, she received the Guild’s Edmund H. North Award, given to a writer whose “courageous leadership, strength of purpose, and continuing selfless activity on behalf of the Guild throughout the years, as well as personal achievement of the highest order, have served to establish the Writers Guild of America as a pillar of strength and security for writers throughout the world.” In 1980, she received the WGAW’s Morgan Cox Award for her longtime service to the Guild, and in 1975, she received the WGAW’s Valentine Davies Award for her humanitarian efforts and her contributions to the entertainment industry and the community at large.
Having served on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Board of Governors since 1974, Kanin served as AMPAS president from 1979 to 1983, and served as a member of AMPAS’ Board of Governors’ Writer Branch for several terms, having also chaired AMPAS’ finance, foreign language film award, long range planning, Nicholl Fellowships and Student Academy Awards committees over the years. She was a founding trustee and long-time secretary of the Writers Guild Foundation, as well as a former WGF vice president and, more recently, emeritus vice president, a position she retained until her death. A member of the Board of Trustees of the American Film Institute, she co-chaired AFI’s center for film and video presentation, as well as chaired the National Film Preservation Board in Washington D.C.
Lauded for her volunteer efforts on behalf of women, Kanin’ earned honors from the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters, the American Women for International Understanding, and the Crystal Award of Women in Film, among others. Known for her signature style and wit, Kanin remained an articulate industry spokesperson and leader on a variety of issues important to creative artists, including film preservation.