This Russian-born producer and executive emigrated to England with his family in 1912. A former music hall dancer turned impresario, Lord Lew Grade calls himself "the last Charleston dancer" but is be...
San Francisco Chronicle movie critic Wesley Morris has quit the Hearst-owned newspaper after sending a farewell note to the paper's staff in which he criticized the paper's management in words that were every bit as withering as any that have appeared in his reviews. The paper, he wrote, "seems resistant to evolution, unwilling to change when the times and the vivid cultural complexion of this city demand that the newspaper do so. Truly talented people are being squandered in anonymous functionary roles.... What good is having a slew of young-thinking, energetic or veteran journalists on your staff, if no one knows how to harness their youth, energy and experience without squelching them?" Morris's last review for the Chronicle, a blast at Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, appeared on Friday. The movie, he wrote, "is 10th-grade juvenilia scribbled in the back of a history book. Its profound lack of ambition is as much its point as the movie's cosmetic ugliness."
Will the sequel to 1998's surprise hit, Rush Hour starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, produce another surprise by knocking out the apes and dinosaurs now dominating the top of the box-office? Many critics think it has a good chance. Not that they are giving the film a lot of raves. Joe Morgenstern observes in the Wall Street Journal that "summer moviegoers no longer expect excellence, let alone demand it, so Rush Hour 2 is sure to pass, and to hit up the American economy for a killing." Kevin Courrier in the Toronto Globe and Mail remarks that "Rush Hour 2 -- which demands absolutely nothing of the viewer -- is a competent, reasonably enjoyable piece of formula entertainment." Stephen Hunter also gives the film about a B-minus grade. "It's about half as much fun as the original, and for August, that's probably good enough," he remarks. A.O. Scott in the New York Times has a similar reaction. "The movie looks and feels like one of the assembly-line Hong Kong martial- arts pictures of old," he writes. "It's not particularly valuable, but it's not counterfeit either." Several critics comment that the the outtakes at the end of the film are funnier than anything in the movie itself -- particularly one scene in which costar Chris Tucker gets a call on his cell phone while in the middle of a take.
With the 65th anniversary of Britain's Pinewood studios being marked by a theatrical documentary, A Celebration of Pinewood Studios, and a picture book, the Pinewood Story (Reynolds & Hearn), media mogul
Michael Grade, a co-owner of the studios has observed that they continue to attract Hollywood filmmakers, "because of the fabulous skill base that we have." In an interview with the London Sunday Telegraph, Grade added, "The myriad craft skills that you need to create a movie are all abundant and of the highest quality in the UK." Some of the U.S. studio films made at
Pinewood include all four Superman movies, Aliens and Alien 3, Batman, and The Phantom Menace. Moreover, Grade noted that filmmakers have no problem persuading Hollywood stars to make movies in London where they can "live in style, they've got privacy, they've got whatever they need. The morale on a picture is terribly important, and if the stars are happy and the director's happy, by and large everybody's happy."
Was chair and managing director of ITC Entertainment Ltd
Produced miniseries "Moses the Lawgiver"
Returned to feature film producing with "Something to Believe In"
Was chair and CEO of parent company, Associated Communications Corp.
Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II
Emigrated to England from native Odessa with family
Ceded control of Associated Communications Corp.
Experiences his own sinking with $36 million failure, "Raise the Titanic"
Served as president of ATV Network Ltd
Formed The Collins and Grade Agency with Joe Collins
Made Broadway producing debut with the short-lived Stephen Sondheim musical "Merrily We Roll Along"
Produced "The Avengers" for TV
Gave up performing to become an agent
Returned to Broadway to produce Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Starlight Express"
Broke into feature films with "Journey to the Far Side of the Sun"
Began executive producing Barbara Cartland's novels for TV
Was chair and CEO, Embassy Communications International
Served as chair of Stoll Moss Theatres Ltd
Formed and headed The Grade Company
Created Lord Grade of Elstree, life peerage
Won World Charleston Championship
Formed Lew and Leslie Grade, Ltd. with brother
Worked as a stage hall dancer
This Russian-born producer and executive emigrated to England with his family in 1912. A former music hall dancer turned impresario, Lord Lew Grade calls himself "the last Charleston dancer" but is better known as one of the pioneers and leading figures in the development of commercial television in Great Britain, a major worldwide distributor of such series as the classic "The Avengers," and as financier and/or executive producer of adaptations ranging from Barbara Cartland novels to such acclaimed features "On Golden Pond" (1981) and "Sophie's Choice" (1982).
Lord Grade's story is not unlike the bulk of the founders of American film and TV dynasties. Born Louis Winogradsky in Odessa in 1906, he fled the Russian pogroms with his parents in 1912, settling in London, where his father set up shop as a tailor. Grade was heading for a life in the garment trade when he entered--and won--the 1926 World Charleston Championship. Instead of needles and threads, it was lights and music. Grade went on to dance professionally in music halls until 1934, when he developed water on the knee. Instead of trying to salvage a career as a performer, he joined with his friend Joe Collins (father of actress-novelist Joan Collins and novelist-producer Jackie Collins) to form the Collins and Grade Agency. In addition to representing the cream of British talent, Grade also handled the foreign interests of such American stars as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Jack Benny. Grade later parted with Collins and, with his brother, created the theatrical agency Lew and Leslie Grade, Ltd.
In 1955, Grade turned his back on agenting and moved into production, all but pioneering the British commercial TV industry, a feat which would later be duplicated by Jules Stein and Lew Wasserman in Hollywood when they gave up their MCA talent interests to own Universal Studios. Grade's first effort as a producer was "The Adventures of Robin Hood", starring Richard Greene, which went on to become an international success, airing in the US on CBS from 1955-58. Grade formed ITC Entertainment as his production arm, which eventually became a division of his Associated Communications Corporation in 1973. For three decades, Grade produced, executive produced or financed numerous international small screen successes. While BBC and other British productions aired on PBS in the US, Grade broke through to commercial broadcasting across the Atlantic, either on one of the major US networks or in syndication. His shows were also hits in Britain, Canada and Australia, among other territories. Under his aegis, ITC offered the world "Secret Agent" (1965-66), with Patrick McGoohan, "The Avengers" (1966-69), with Patrick McNee and Diana Rigg, "This is Tom Jones" (1969-71), "The Englebert Humperdinck Show" (1969) and numerous others.
While most British networks might produce a handful of episodes of a so-called series in a given season under the guise of creative energy, Grade understood that the "factory" system employed in the US was the key to international and financial success. Many of his TV shows, although produced in London, were co-productions with US entities and geared for the lucrative American first-run syndication market, such as "The Muppet Show" (1976-81) and "Space 1999" (1974-76). Grade also produced longforms, such as "Moses the Lawgiver" (CBS, 1975), starring Burt Lancaster and Anthony Quayle, and Franco Zefferelli's "Jesus of Nazareth" (NBC, 1977). Grade's empire also included Marble Arch Productions.
In 1969, Grade moved into feature production with "Journey to the Far Side of the Sun". During the 70s, releasing through AVCO-Embassy, in which he had stake, he offered Blake Edwards' romance "The Tamarind Seed" (1974), starring Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif, Edwards' "Return of the Pink Panther" (1975), a remake of "Farewell My Lovely" (1975), with Robert Mitchum the earnest all-star "Voyage of the Damned" (1977), Ingmar Bergman's award-winning "Autumn Sonata" (1978), starring Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann, and "The Boys From Brazil" (1979), which brought Lord Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck together. But, in 1980, Grade sunk $36 million into "Raise the Titanic", a film which returned only $8 million in its initial box office. (Grade later quipped "it would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic.") That failure, coupled with the changing fortunes of the global entertainment marketplace, led to Grade stepping down from Associated Communications in 1982, although he continued to finance such American films as "On Golden Pond" (1981) and "Sophie's Choice" (1982), both released through Universal.
From 1982-85, Grade chaired Embassy Communications International, parent associate of Norman Lear's Hollywood Embassy Communications, which was run for a spell by Grade's nephew, Michael Grade. When Lear sold out to Coca Cola, Grade founded The Grade Company in 1985, and, in now well into his 80s, continued going strong. He acquired the rights to romance novelist Barbara Cartland's works and, through a deal with TNT, produced several adaptations, including "A Ghost in Monte Carlo" (1990) and "Duel of Hearts" (1992). Grade also turned to the legitimate stage, with limited success, in the 80s. He produced Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along" on Broadway in 1981, which only ran a few dozen performances. His attempt with Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Starlight Express" (1987) was only marginally better.
Grade returned to feature producing with "Something to Believe In" (1998), a romantic drama starring William McNamara and Maria Patillo that he had developed for five years. Re-energized by this, Lord Grade revised his original intention to retire at the turn of the century; he died just one year short of achieving his goal.
ran Embassy TV in USA during mid-1980s; returned to England as chief executive of Channel 4 in 1988; purchased Pinewood Studios in 1999
formerly partnered with Lord Grade in agency business
Once billed as "the man with the musical feet," Grade credits the associations he made in the musical hall circuits as the foundation of his success. He told The New York Times in 1987: "It's relationship. That's been the theme all my life. The looked out for me. They said, 'Lew, there's a great act in Budapest.' It was relationship. They never let me down." To this day, Grade seals his deals with a handshake and the exclaimation, "That's Relationship!"
"If I do a deal, I can do it calmly, gently ... I have everyone's home phone number. I call them at the weekend when they're calm and peaceful" --Grade to The New York Times, in 1987.
"I used to say I'd retire in the year 2001, but I already know it won't happen. I have three more projects I know I'm going to do after this ["Something to Believe In"]" --Lord Grade at age 89 to Los Angeles Times, November 10, 1996.