PCH — Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Fay Kanin, who collaborated with her husband Michael in writing the scripts for such memorable 1950s films as “The Opposite Sex” and “Teacher’s Pet” before becoming an acclaimed writer-producer of made-for-television movies in the 1970s, died Wednesday of natural causes at her home in Santa Monica, the Writers Guild of America, West announced. She was 95.
In addition to her creative work, Kanin served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science from 1979 to 1983. She was the second woman to hold the office, following Bette Davis, who briefly held the position in 1941. Kanin is credited with helping opening doors in Hollywood for women who wanted to work behind the camera, writing and producing. Her characters were often strong women who could be considered feminists before the term existed.
Kanin was born Fay Mitchell on May 9, 1917, in New York City, the only child of a clothing store manager and a retired vaudeville actress. She studied writing at the all-female Elmira College and worked for the local Star-Gazette. Eager to get into show business, she convinced her family to move to Los Angeles the summer before her senior year of college.
Kanin attended USC for a year and landed a job at RKO reviewing scripts for $25 a week. She took full advantage of her access, talking with directors, editors and producers and learning about the business.
She launched her screenwriting career in 1942 with the classic comedy “Sunday Punch,” which she co-wrote with her husband and Allen Rivkin. The husband-and-wife duo emerged as one of the most successful screenwriting teams in Hollywood, co-writing a string of screenplays for films such as “My Pal Gus,” “Rhapsody,” and “The Opposite Sex.”
Kanin was nominated for an Academy Award for 1958’s “Teacher’s Pet” alongside her husband. The film starred Clark Gable and Doris Day.
Kanin was also recognized for her television contributions, winning two screenwriting Emmys in 1974 and another for producing the TV special “Friendly Fire” in 1979, which starred Carol Burnett as a real-life Iowa woman battling the U.S. government to uncover the truth about the death of her son in the Vietnam War.
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 other organizations.
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, according to the guild.
Kanin is survived by her son, Josh, his wife Laurie, two grandchildren, Laurel and Jessica, and two step-grandchildren, Michael and Eddy, and great-grandson, Justin.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in Fay Kanin’s name to the American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org/donate.
Funeral services for Kanin will be held this Sunday, March 31, at 3 p.m. at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Chapel), 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., in Hollywood.