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Martin Richards, Oscar-winning Producer of ‘Chicago,’ Dies at 80

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Martin Richards, a much respected Broadway and movie producer, died Nov. 26 in his Manhattan home. He was 80.

He produced the original Chicago musical on Broadway and won an Academy Award as the producer of the 2002 film version.

Born Morton Richard Klein in the Bronx, Richards got his first job at the age of 10 as a newsboy in the Broadway show Mexican Hayride with June Havoc. He did other shows and commercials until his voice changed. At 17, a baritone, he began performing in nightclubs under his new name. He spent two years at New York University studying architecture, his grandfather’s profession, while singing at night, but quit to pursue show business full-time. Realizing he would never make it big as a singer, Richards landed jobs as a casting director. He found actors for small roles in Manhattan-location movies like The Seven Year Itch, Sweet Charity, The Boston Strangler, and Sweet Smell of Success.

In 1976, with one million dollars from his wife, Richards established the Producers Circle with Robert Fryer and James Cresson. The partnership produced such Broadway musical hits as On the Twentieth Century, Sweeney Todd, La Cage aux Folles, and The Will Rogers Follies. Their shows won more than 36 Tony Awards. Crimes of the Heart won a Pulitzer Prize. Among their films were The Boys from Brazil, The Shining, and Fort Apache, the Bronx.

Richards and his late wife were instrumental in founding Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. He also established the liver and kidney transplant unit at New York University Langone Medical Center and created the New York Center for Children to care for abused children and their families.

Broadway’s lights were dimmed in Richards’ honor on Nov. 27.

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