Michael Abbott, Theatre Producer, Dies at 81

Obituaries   Michael Abbott, Theatre Producer, Dies at 81
Michael Abbott, who produced the first New York staging of the war drama Stalag 17 when he was only 21 and was about to serve the same role for a coming Broadway revival, died Jan. 24 at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. He was 81.

Mr. Abbott had been working on a new production of Stalag 17 with director Spike Lee for an upcoming Broadway engagement. The producer was barely out of school when he first backed the work, in an Off-Broadway staging at the Lamb's Club. The show later transferred to Broadway, with Jose Ferrer producing, and was subsequently made into a film.

It was not long after Stalag that Mr. Abbott himself produced a Broadway show, a comedy called Late Love starring Cliff Robertson, Arlene Francis and Elizabeth Montgomery. It was 1953, and he was 23 years old. The show ran 95 performances.

Mr. Abbott began his career as an actor. Born and raised in New York City, he studied at both Pratt Institute and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He was a member of the Bucks County Playhouse acting company and also appeared on such television programs as "Martin Kane," "Philco-Goodyear Playhouse" and many Milton Berle Texaco shows. He made his first and only Broadway appearance as an actor in 1949's The Traitor, written by Herman Wouk and produced and directed by Jed Harris.

He could not, however, resist a long-felt ambition to become a producer. He was associate producer with David Susskind on A Very Special Baby in 1956 and on Rashomon, based on the famous Ryunosuke Akutagawa story, in 1959. His final Broadway producing effort, in 1971, was The Imcomparable Max, about critic and bon vivant Max Beerbohm.

Mr. Abbott also produced extensively in television and film.

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