Hollywood writer John Furia Jr. dies at 79

LOS ANGELES: Prolific screen and television writer John Furia Jr., who penned popular series including "Bonanza," "The Waltons" and "Hawaii Five-O" among many others, has died. He was 79.

The Writers Guild of America West disclosed Furia's death in a statement Friday. The cause and exact time of his death could not immediately be determined.

Furia, a former president of the WGAW, was a longtime advocate for Hollywood writers. He was also a founding chairman of the Writing for Screen and Television Division at the University of Southern California's film school and was a full professor there teaching screen and television writing.

"John's character and dignity touched and influenced generations of writers from the founders of the Guild itself to the newest of student-associates," said WGAW President Patric M. Verrone in a statement. "For those of us who relied on his knowledge and his counsel, John was more than an eminence grise; he was pure eminence."

Born in 1929, Furia started his entertainment career singing with dance bands in New York City, but he soon discovered the fledgling television industry. He moved to California where he became one of Hollywood's most productive dramatists, working for both major studios and networks.

He wrote for series such as "Bonanza," "The Twilight Zone," "Dr. Kildare," "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre," "Hawaii Five-O," "The Waltons" and "Kung Fu," as well as wrote or produced numerous movies-of-the-week.

Furia's screen credits include "The Singing Nun" starring Debbie Reynolds and Greer Garson, in addition to executive producing films in Mexico, France, Canada, Spain, Croatia and Kenya.

"John had an old-world dignity about him that seems in such short supply in our world today," Jack Epps, Jr., chair of USC's School of Cinematic Arts Writing for Screen and Television Division, said in a statement.