REES, MARIAN

U.S. Producer

After graduating with honors in Sociology from the University of Iowa, Marian Rees moved to Los Angeles in 1952 and began her television career as a receptionist/typist at NBC. By 1955 she had joined the Norman Lear/Bud Yorkin company, Tandem Productions, and in 1958 served as an associate producer on the much honored An Evening With Fred Astaire. She continued to advance in the organization and by the early 1970s served as Associate Producer on the pilots of All in the Family and Sanford and Son. In 1972, however, she was told by Tandem that she would be happier elsewhere and given two weeks notice. It was a stunning blow but as she told an interviewer in 1986, she used the firing to grow.

Rees assumed a new position at the independent production company, Tomorrow Entertainment, where she broadened her knowledge of development, pre-production, and post production. At Tomorrow, Rees was associated with a variety of quality productions, including The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. She then spent two years with the NRW Company as vice president and was the executive producer of The Marva Collins Story, a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation starring Cicely Tyson. In 1982 Rees formed her own company, Marian Rees Associates. Anne Hopkins joined the company as a partner and has continued to work with Rees ever since.

In order to fund her first independent productions, Rees initially mortgaged her home and car, facing demands for financial qualification far more extensive than would have been required for a man. She pressed for months to gain network approval for her first production, Miss All American Beauty, but resistance continued and she finally learned that the male executive she had to convince simply didn't want to trust a woman. Finally, with funds running extremely low, approval for the project came from CBS. Rees completed the project under budget and her company found itself on solid footing.

In the succeeding years Rees has garnered 11 Emmy Awards and 30 additional nominations. In 1992, just ten years after her company began she saw her film for NBC, Miss Rose White, garner four Emmys out of ten nominations, a Golden Globe nomination, and the Humanitas Award. Seven of her productions have been aired as part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame series.

Marian Rees has remained faithful to her vision of excellence, even in times financial difficulty. She examines potential stories to ascertain whether they speak to her personally and make her proud to be associated with the final product. These same concerns are reflected in the meticulous attention given to each project once it is in production. While filming Miss Rose White in spring 1992 in Richmond, Virginia, for example, both Rees and Hopkins supervised details at every stage of the production and personally examined every location shot for authenticity. Such care has meant that their work is usually focused on a single film at a time, always aware that the next project must be in preparation. Only once since the company was started have they put on the air more than two productions in any single year. Rees and Hopkins form a remarkable team, taking considerable risks, and always delivering quality products, a task made more difficult in the U.S. television industry at the end of the decade.

A champion for women's rights in the U.S. television industry throughout her career, Marian Rees served two terms as President of Women in Film. Her service to her profession also includes Board membership at the American Film Institute and the Producer's Guild of America, where she now serves as vice president. "Producer" may be an easy title to acquire in the modern television age. Few earn it, and none more certainly deserve it than Marian Rees.

-Robert S. Alley

 


Marian Rees
Photo courtesy of Marian Rees

MARIAN REES. Worked in live television, New York City in the 1950s; associate producer, Tandem Productions, 1955-72; executive, Tomorrow Entertainment, First Artists Television, EMI Television, and the NRW Company's features division, 1972-82; founder, Marian Rees Associates, 1982; producer, numerous made-for-television movies. Member: Women in Film (twice elected president); board of directors of the American Film Institute; Producers Guild of America (vice president, 1996).

TELEVISION SERIES (selection)

1971-79 All in the Family
1972-77 Sanford and Son

MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIES (selection)

1979 Orphan Train
1981 The Marva Collins Story
1981 Angel Dusted
1982 Miss All-American Beauty
1983 Between Friends
1984 License to Kill
1984 Love Is Never Silent
1986 Christmas Show
1986 Resting Place
1987 The Room Upstairs
1987 Foxfire
1988 Little Girl Lost
1989 The Shell Seekers
1989 Home Fires Burning
1990 Decoration Day
1992 Miss Rose White
1995 In Pursuit of Honor
1995 When the Vows Break

TELEVISION SPECIALS

1958 An Evening with Fred Astaire

 

See also All in the Family; Hallmark Hall of Fame; Sanford and Son