Ann Marcus, who wrote scripts for soap operas and won an Emmy for parodying them as a creator and head writer for the 1970s cult hit “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” died on Dec. 3 in Los Angeles. She was 93.
Her death was confirmed by her daughter, Ellyn Lindsay.
Ms. Marcus was 40 and had worked as a journalist and actress before she wrote for sitcoms like “Dennis the Menace” in the 1960s. She wrote her first episode of the prime-time soap opera “Peyton Place” in 1966 and wrote or contributed to 46 more before the series ended in 1969.
She also wrote for prime-time soaps like “Knots Landing” and “Falcon Crest” and for daytime dramas like “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” “General Hospital” and “One Life to Live.”
Ms. Marcus said she tried to introduce socially relevant plots into her scripts. “I majored in sociology,” she said in an interview for the Archive of American Television in 2001. “I was always interested in racism, in problems of class.”
Norman Lear, the producer of the socially conscious “All in the Family” and other hit sitcoms, contacted her in 1975. He was struggling to find a writer for the pilot of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” a five-night-a-week serial that would satirize consumer culture as well as the soap-opera genre.
Ann Marcus wrote for sitcoms and soap operas for decades.
Mr. Lear’s idea for the pilot revolved around the title character, played by Louise Lasser, a wife so engrossed in homemaking that she is oblivious to horrible events, in this case the murders of her neighbors and their animals. Writers like Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr., of “I Love Lucy,” turned Mr. Lear down.
Many of them asked, “Norman, how can we expect laughs after the slaughter of an entire family?” Mr. Lear wrote in his memoir, “Even This I Get to Experience,” published this year.
Ms. Marcus overcame her reservations and agreed to write the pilot. Mr. Lear wrote that she came up with Mary’s reaction to the killings: “What kind of a madman would want to kill two goats and eight chickens?”
“And the people,” she adds while looking at the label of the product in her hand. “The people, of course.”
The pilot was broadcast in 1976, and Ms. Marcus shared an Emmy Award with Jerry Adelman and Daniel Gregory Browne for writing it. She was the head writer for many of the 325 episodes that made up “Mary Hartman’s” two seasons.
Dorothy Ann Goldstone was born in Little Falls, N.Y., on Aug. 22, 1921. When she was 11, her father committed suicide, and at 15 she moved to Teaneck, N.J., with her mother and her mother’s new husband. In 1943 she graduated from Western College for Women in Ohio, now defunct.
By her account, she became the first female copy “boy” at The Daily News in New York, then parlayed her first byline into a reporting job with Life magazine.
She married Ellis Marcus, a television writer, in 1944. Mr. Marcus, with whom she lived in Sherman Oaks, Calif., died in 1990. In addition to her daughter, she is survived by two sons, Steven and John; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Her sister, the actress Tracy Roberts, died in 2002.