Creator & Producers
The Big Guys Who Made It Happen
Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg produced “Fantasy Island” throughout its run, and Gene Levitt created the series. Here’s a quick look at the men who gave us the show we love.
Aaron Spelling was born on April 22, 1923, in Dallas, Texas, and grew up bullied so often in school that for a time he actually lost the use of his legs, due to psychosomatic causes. Determined to make something of himself, he broke into show business, at first as an actor—though not a particularly successful one. He also wrote scripts before getting into producing, which turned out to be a singularly brilliant career move. He went on to become television’s most prolific producer ever—218 productions in all!
He was married twice, first to actress Carolyn Jones from 1953-1964; after their divorce, he moved to California, where he met Candy Marer Gene and married her in 1968. They had two children, Tori (born May 16, 1973) and Randy (born October 9, 1978), both of whom became actors as well, though Tori is the better known of the two. She showed up in quite a few of her father’s productions, most famously as Donna in “Beverly Hills 90210”; and as a ten-year-old, she filled guest roles in two “Fantasy Island” episodes, both in the final season.
Among Aaron Spelling’s many series-production credits are “The Mod Squad”, “The Rookies”, “Charlie’s Angels”, “Dynasty”, “Starsky & Hutch”, “Hotel”, “Family”, “Hart to Hart”, “Vega$”, “The Colbys” (which also featured Ricardo Montalbán in a starring role), “T.J. Hooker”, “7th Heaven”, “Charmed”, “S.W.A.T.” and, of course, “Fantasy Island”. He was still working into the 21st century; but he suffered a stroke, and died of complications from it on June 23, 2006. Coincidentally, that was the very day Kim was in Southern California taking photographs of the cottage that “portrayed” the main house on the island; she likes to think of it as an unwitting tribute and gives thanks to Aaron Spelling for throwing the power of his name behind a truly unique television series.
Leonard Goldberg was born in New York City on January 24, 1934, and worked with Aaron Spelling for many years, through most of the television series listed above. He also produced the television movies Brian’s Song, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (alongside Spelling), and Something About Amelia. He has been head of programming for ABC and president of Twentieth Century Fox, and currently owns the company Mandy Films. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Gene Levitt, born in New York City on May 28, 1920, is the man who created the series. After attending the University of Wyoming and working as a reporter in Chicago, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.
He got an early start in TV; his writing credits go back to the 1950s. Among the many shows he wrote for are “Highway Patrol”, “Maverick”, “Combat!”, “Letter to Loretta” (in which Ricardo Montalbán made numerous guest appearances, although he did not appear in any of the episodes Levitt wrote), “77 Sunset Strip”, “Get Christie Love!”, and “Married: With Children”. Levitt also worked as a director, for “Alias Smith and Jones”, “Night Gallery”, “McCloud”, “The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo”, and “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”, among others. His production credits may not be as extensive as those of Spelling and Goldberg, but he has several impressive claims: “Barnaby Jones”, Spelling-Goldberg’s “S.W.A.T.”, and “Hawaii Five-O” as supervising producer from 1979-1980. But the achievement he is most famous for is the creation of “Fantasy Island”. Gene Levitt died in Los Angeles on November 15, 1999.
Information from the websites Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia.