Marty Krofft, the TV producer known for imaginative children’s shows such as H.R. Pufnstuf and primetime hits including Donny & Marie in the 1970s, has died in Los Angeles, his publicist said. Krofft was 86.
He died Saturday (Nov. 25) of kidney failure, publicist Harlan Boll said.
Krofft and his brother Sid were puppeteers who broke into television and ended up getting stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Along the way, they brought a trippy sensibility to children’s TV and brought singing siblings Donny and Marie Osmond and Barbara Mandrell and her sisters to primetime.
The Osmonds’ clean-cut variety show, featuring television’s youngest-ever hosts at the time, became a lasting piece of ‘70s cultural memorabilia, rebooted as a daytime talk show in the 1990s and a Broadway Christmas show in 2010. The Kroffts followed up with Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, centered on the country music star; it ran from 1980-82.
“I am so saddened by the passing of my dear friend, Marty Krofft,” Donny Osmond wrote Sunday in a statement posted on social media. “He and his brother, Sid, created the whole format of The Donny and Marie show. Together, they put my sister and me on the map and both of us will be forever grateful for their vision and creativity. Marty Krofft’s television legacy is incredible. His fingerprint is on generations of entertainment and the impact he’s had in connecting people around the world is an astonishing legacy he leaves behind. Our best wishes and love go out to his family and loved ones. As Marie and I sang at the end of every show, ‘May God keep you in His tender care, ’till He brings us together again.’”
Like the Osmonds, H.R. Pufnstuf proved to have pop culture staying power. Despite totaling just 17 episodes, the surreal show, featuring an island, a witch, a talking flute, a shipwrecked boy and a redheaded, cowboy boot-wearing dragon, came in 27th in a 2007 TV Guide poll ranking of all-time cult favorites.
More than 45 years after the show’s 1969 debut, the title character graced an episode of another Krofft brothers success, Mutt & Stuff, which ran for multiple seasons on Nickelodeon.
“To make another hit at this time in our lives, I’ve got to give ourselves a pat on the back,” Marty Krofft told The Associated Press ahead of the episode’s taping in 2015.
Even then, he was still contending with another of the enduring features of H.R. Pufnstuf — speculation that it, well, betokened a certain ‘60s commitment to altering consciousness. Krofft rebuffed that notion: “If we did the drugs everybody thought we did, we’d be dead today,” he said, adding, “You cannot work stoned.”
Born in Montreal on April 9, 1937, Krofft got into entertainment via puppetry. He and his brother Sid put together a risqué, cabaret-inspired puppet show called Les Poupées de Paris in 1960, and its traveling success led to jobs creating puppet shows for amusement parks. The Kroffts eventually opened their own, the short-lived World of Sid & Marty Krofft, in Atlanta in the 1970s.
They first made their mark in television with H.R. Pufnstuf, which spawned the 1970 feature film Pufnstuf. Many more shows for various audiences followed, including Land of the Lost; Electra Woman and Dyna Girl; Pryor’s Place, with comedian Richard Pryor; and D.C. Follies, in which puppets gave a satirical take on politics and the news.
The pair were honored with a Daytime Emmy for lifetime achievement in 2018. They got their Walk of Fame star two years later.
Sid Krofft said on Instagram that he was heartbroken by his younger brother’s death, telling fans, “All of you meant the world to him.”
While other producers might have contented themselves with their achievements far earlier, Marty Krofft indicated to The AP in 2015 that he no had interest in stepping back from show business.
“What am I gonna do — retire and watch daytime television and be dead in a month?” he asked.