Jay Wolpert, a TV game show producer who helped popularize “The Price is Right” and had a late career resurgence as a credited writer on Disney’s mega-blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” has died. He was 79.
Wolpert died Monday morning in Los Angeles after suffering from Alzheimer’s, his longtime manager of 20 years told TheWrap.
Wolpert created CBS’ “Double Dare” in the ’70s, spending much of his early career at Goodson-Todman Productions. He also worked with Chuck Barris and Dan Enright and helped develop classic game show hits such as “Family Feud,” “Card Sharks” and “Match Game.” But he most importantly helped introduce some of the humor and narrative elements to “The Price Is Right’s” Showcase Showdowns, working on the show as a producer between 1972-1978 and for over 1,300 episodes.
He also found success writing for the big screen, moving into screenwriting and landing his first script credit at age 60 with “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Wolpert wrote a spec script based on Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel, which his agent shared with Spyglass as a writing sample. Spyglass at the time was working on a William Tell film, but upon reading Wolpert’s script, “Monte Cristo” was fast tracked, William Tell was set aside, and the film hit the big screen in 2002 starring Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce.
From there Wolpert was one of the first writers hired to develop the story based on the popular Disneyland attraction “Pirates of the Caribbean.” And though multiple writers would be brought in on the film, his name gets credit for the screen story and characters on all the subsequent “Pirates” sequels.
Jay Wolpert was inspired and pushed into screenwriting by Nancy Meyers, who he had hired out of college to be his assistant before she left to pursue a career in film. In an interview from 2006, he explained inadvertently bumping into Meyers after she had made a name for herself in Hollywood and being asked by her, “Why didn’t you ever write?” Meyers along with her husband Charles Shyer even helped serve as mentors as Wolpert pursued his writing career.
After leaving Goodson-Todman and “The Price is Right” in 1979, Wolpert formed his own production company and developed a short-lived game show titled “Whew!” and another from 1983 called “Hit Man” that aired for 13 weeks on NBC and was hosted by Peter Tomarken.
Wolpert is survived by his wife Roslyn, two daughters and sons-in-law and four grandsons.