From the early 1920s until his premature death in 1936, producer and studio executive Irving G. Thalberg walked the line between commerce and art in transforming the Hollywood system and shifting the...
Legendary Hollywood producer Saul Zaentz has died aged 92. The producer passed away at his home in San Francisco, California on Friday (03Jan13) after a battle with Alzheimer's disease, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
His nephew Paul Zaentz, a fellow producer, confirmed the news, saying, "He was an extraordinary man. He had a lot of guts, a lot of integrity."
Zaentz began his career in the music business with Fantasy Records, signing rock legends Creedence Clearwater Revival to the label, but later becoming involved in a notorious high-profile legal battle with the band's frontman John Fogerty.
He went on to gain recognition as an independent movie producer and he won three Oscars for his films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus and The English Patient.
In 1997, he also won the Irving G. Thalberg Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his work and in the same year (97), he also received the Producers Guild of America's Motion Picture Producer of the Year Award for The English Patient.
The revered Hollywood producer behind movie hits like Jaws and Alice in Wonderland passed away on Friday morning (13Jul12), aged 77.
The son of movie mogul Darryl F. Zanuck, he began his Hollywood career as a producer in the late 1950s and was an uncredited executive on film hits The Sound of Music and The Sting.
Zanuck also produced classics The Eiger Sanction, The Black Windmill, The Sugarland Express, Cocoon and Driving Miss Daisy, which won him an Oscar and a Producers Guild Award in 1990.
He went on to produce the Academy Awards telecast in 2000, just before embarking on a long-standing collaboration with director Tim Burton.
Zanuck's association with the filmmaker began with 2001's Planet of the Apes and he went on to produce Burton's films Big Fish, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and this year's (12) Dark Shadows.
His final film, Hidden, is currently in pre-production.
Among his many honours, Zanuck was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award at the Oscars in 1991 and the Producers Guild of America's David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.
Rob Lowe and Zooey Deschanel are leading the celebrity tributes to the producer.
Lowe took to Twitter.com and wrote, "Sorry to hear of the passing of a legend and true gentleman, Dick Zanuck. If there was a Mount Rushmore of producers he'd be ALL the faces."
Actress Deschanel adds, "He was a great person and producer, I am terribly sad to hear this", while Robert De Niro's producer pal Jane Rosenthal simply tweets, "R.I.P. Richard D. Zanuck".
Zanuck's death also struck a chord with rocker Fred Durst, who posted, "RIP Richard D Zanuck. What he accomplished in a day is more than most do in a lifetime. A true legend and inspiration for me."
Calley headed up Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. during his remarkable career and produced films like Catch-22, The Remains of the Day and The Da Vinci Code.
Born in New Jersey, he began his career in the NBC mail room.
He served as production chief, president and vice chairman at Warner Bros. throughout the 1970s and worked on classic films like The Exorcist, A Clockwork Orange and All the President's Men.
He quit the film industry in 1980 and returned to produce pal Mike Nichols' films a decade later.
A statement from the director reads, "As a friend he was always there and always funny. As a studio head he was unfailingly supportive and didn't try to do the filmmaker's job. When he believed in someone he trusted and supported him and when very rarely he had a suggestion it was usually a life saver. In fact, that's what he was: a life saver."
Calley was the recipient of the Irving G. Thalberg Award at the Oscars in 2009, but he was unable to accept in person due to illness.
The Godfather director was handed the coveted Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work as a producer at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards in Los Angeles.
The night saw many stars take to the stage to honour Coppola, with De Niro calling him "an inspiration and one of my biggest influences".
Star Wars creator Lucas added, "(Coppola) taught me how to write. He taught me how to direct. He actually personified a whole era of the American film industry. He was our leader. He was our inspiration."
As he accepted the prize, Coppola told the crowd, "I have a great love of the original Hollywood tradition and admiration for the tradition of Irving Thalberg."
The honour wasn't Coppola's first Academy Award - he already has five trophies; four of them for his Godfather films.
Other stars honoured at the ceremony included historian Kevin Brownlow, director Jean-Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach.
Kevin Spacey presented Brownlow with his trophy, while Clint Eastwood took to the stage to honour Wallach, branding him "a great performer and a great friend".
The moviemaker, best know for his work with Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini, passed away in Los Angeles on Thursday (11Nov10).
De Laurentiis began his career in film at the age of 20 and went on to become one of Italy's most famous producers.
He moved to the U.S. in the 1960s and worked on a series of American movies including 1973's Serpico with Al Pacino in 1973, Three Days of the Condor with Robert Redford in 1975 and Ridley Scott's Hannibal in 2001.
De Laurentiis worked on more than 500 films over the years and he won an Oscar in 1956 for Fellini's La Strada.
In 2001, Academy bosses presented the producer with the coveted Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his contribution to motion picture production.
De Laurentiis was married twice and is survived by six of his seven daughters. His only son, Federico, died at the age of 26 in a plane crash.
The Godfather director will be feted at the organisation's second annual Governors Awards on Sunday (14Nov10) when he collects the coveted Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work as a producer.
But Coppola admits he was keen to delay calling the Academy back because he is overcome with nerves whenever friends in the industry reach out to him unexpectedly.
He says, "Well, I am always nervous when I get a phone call from folks where I am living. (It's a) 'Why are they calling me?' kind of thing and 'Who's sick?' or 'Who's passed away?' But it was happy news."
And the filmmaker is honoured to have been selected to receive the top accolade for his production credits, reports the Associated Press.
He adds, "It is sort of the ultimate award for producing. I've been a writer, a director and I have gotten more than my share of those honours. The Thalberg award for me is kind of a trifecta."
Coppola will join film historian Kevin Brownlow, director Jean-Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach as an honouree at the pre-Oscars event.
The Godfather director will join film historian Kevin Brownlow, director Jean-Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach as an honoree at the pre-Oscars event in November (10).
Academy President Tom Sherak says, "Each of these honorees has touched movie audiences worldwide and influenced the motion picture industry through their work. It will be an honour to celebrate their extraordinary achievements and contributions at the Governors Awards."
Coppola has already been honoured by the Academy - the filmmaker has five Oscars for writing, producing and directing.
Brown passed away at his home in New York City on Sunday (31Jan10) following a prolonged battle with ill health.
The movie mogul's long running career began in the 1950s, when he was credited with discovering the script for 1956 movie Love Me Tender, which brought music legend Elvis Presley to the big screen for the first time.
Brown went on to form a successful producing partnership with his longtime colleague Richard D. Zanuck. Their company launched in the 1970s with two of Spielberg's early films - The Sugarland Express in 1974 and Jaws in 1975.
Brown formed his own production company, The Manhattan Project Ltd, in 1988 and went on to secure success with movie hits including A Few Good Men, Deep Impact, Angela's Ashes and Road to Perdition.
He also produced numerous Broadway musicals including Sweet Smell of Success: The Musical and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
The 93 year old, along with Zanuck, was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1990.
Brown is survived by his wife, longtime editor of America's Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown.
The 79-year-old producer and former studio head was billed to receive the coveted Irving G. Thalberg Oscar, but was too sick to show up.
Steven Spielberg accepted the award from presenter Tom Hanks on his friend's behalf, while fellow moguls George Lucas, Dino De Laurentiis, Saul Zaentz and Warren Beatty paid tribute to Calley.
Honours also went to movie legend Lauren Bacall, director Roger Corman and cinematographer Gordon Willis.
Presenting Bacall with her honour at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland, Anjelica Huston stated the movie star "defines what it means to be an actress," adding, "She is a woman of great charisma and beauty but one not to be trifled with."
Bacall confessed she was "very emotional and grateful" to be honoured at the 2009 Governors Awards.
Honouring B-movie mastermind Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino called the director "the original maverick," while Ron Howard revealed, "He changed my life."
A thrilled Corman told the audience, "I’m delighted to accept this Oscar," adding that those in Hollywood work in “the only true modern art form.”
Saturday night’s gala and awards ceremony marked the first time the academy has presented its honorary awards anywhere other than during the annual Oscar telecast.
The star was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars in 1996 but has never won an Academy Award for her screen performances.
But she is among this year's recipients of an honorary statue, given to celebrate motion picture achievements not covered by existing Academy Awards.
Veteran director Roger Corman, who has produced more than 300 films in his career, and cinematographer Gordon Willis will also receive the award, announced by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Thursday (10Sep09).
Board members also voted to present the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producer John Calley, whose movies include The Remains of the Day and The Da Vinci Code.
The prizes will be presented at the inaugural Governors Awards gala event in November (09).
Became vice president and head of production at Louis B. Mayer Pictures
Made vice president and supervisor of production at newly-formed MGM
Made production manager at Universal City (Hollywood)
From the early 1920s until his premature death in 1936, producer and studio executive Irving G. Thalberg walked the line between commerce and art in transforming the Hollywood system and shifting the balance of power from directors to the studios. Thalberg had his start with Carl Laemmle's Universal Studios, where he took a heavy-handed approach to guiding hits like "Foolish Wives" (1922) and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923) through production, famously clashing with director Erich von Stroheim on the former. In 1924, Thalberg left Universal for newly-formed rival MGM, where he thrived under head Louis B. Mayer with "The Big Parade" (1925), "The Divorcee" (1930) and "Grand Hotel" (1932). Regarded by the American film industry with a mixture of respect, awe, envy and fear, Thalberg was deemed a "Boy Wonder," until suffering a heart attack in 1932 that led to his departure from MGM. He returned as a producer the following year and went on to make massive hits like "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1934), "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935) and "A Night at the Opera" (1935), as well sharing his life with MGM's grand dame, actress Norma Shearer, who had married him in 1927. Though he died young, Thalberg remained eternal. His obsession with quality films and unwavering faith in public opinion turned him into a paragon of the studio factory system and an exemplar of public taste, all of which cemented his place as a Hollywood legend.<p>Born on May 30, 1899 in Brooklyn, NY, Thalberg was raised by his German-Jewish immigrant parents, William and Henrietta. Sickly as a child, Thalberg was nonetheless a bright youngster bound for early success. In fact, he began his film career straight out of high school in 1918, when he worked as a secretary for Universal Studios founder, Carl Laemmle, in his New York office. The bright and ambitious young Thalberg quickly rose up the ladder and was soon installed as the head of production at Laemmle's studio in Universal City, CA. Once there, Thalberg sought to upgrade the quality of the studio's product and to reign in profligate costs on its "Jewel" productions. He made an immediate impression by clashing with profligate director and star Erich von Stroheim over the cost of "Foolish Wives" (1922), which led to ordering substantial cuts. The film went on to become a substantial hit, validating Thalberg's decisions. He later removed von Stroheim from the helm of "Merry-Go-Round" (1923) and replaced him with Rupert Julian. Meanwhile, he tightly controlled the production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923) starring Lon Chaney, from pre-production planning to editing and promotion, which resulted in another tremendous success for studio.<p>Because of his tenacious defense of the bottom line and his unusually canny perceptions into what makes for a profitable film, Thalberg fast became Laemmle's most trusted ally. But in 1924, he was lured away from the parsimonious Laemmle by rival Louis B. Mayer with the promise of more money. Thalberg joined Louis B. Mayer Productions, which soon merged with Metro Pictures Corporation into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and became head of production at the new studio. Once again, he clashed with von Stroheim, cutting his mammoth version of "Greed" (1925) down to a manageable two hours while overseeing every aspect of the autocratic director's production of "The Merry Widow" (1925). This muzzling of von Stroheim marked the demise of the era of the flamboyant producer-director and heralded the birth of a new order of powerful executives within the studio production system. The litmus test for this paradigm shift was the World War I epic, "The Big Parade" (1925), directed by King Vidor and heavily supervised by Thalberg. The film's spectacular success - it was reportedly the most profitable of the silent era - validated Thalberg's production methods.<p>Thalberg's strategy became synonymous with the MGM house style that held well into the late 1940s. He combined intensive pre-production preparation with the post-production system of previews designed to gauge audience reactions and determine ensuing retakes - a practice mirrored by studios in using focus groups in the latter part of the century. Working with Mayer and facilities supervisor Eddie Mannix, Thalberg oversaw every MGM production to ensure that the highest standards were maintained. He had a remarkable talent for script development and doctoring, and - although he was determined to produce films efficiently to insure profitability - he had ambitions to produce prestigious art films. Sustaining a virtual high-wire act between the money men in New York and the studio artists, Thalberg transformed MGM into the most profitable and respected studio in the industry with such well-received successes as "The Broadway Melody" (1929), "The Divorcee" (1930), "Grand Hotel" (1932) and "Red Dust" (1932). He also helped develop new MGM stars including Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, and nurtured the careers of already-established stars such as Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer, the latter of whom he had married in 1927.<p>In 1932, the high-flying Thalberg was dealt a crushing blow when one of his associate producers, Paul Bern, committed suicide, leaving MGM's then biggest female star Jean Harlow a widow. His reaction to Bern's death and the ensuing scandal surrounding it was to pour himself into MGM's upcoming productions, but after a time he could not personally oversee the production of 50 features a year. Never in strong health following his sickly childhood - doctors never expected him to see age 30 - he suffered a heart attack at the end of that same year. Travelling abroad for an extensive rest for six months, he created a power vacuum that Mayer - smoldering with resentment over Thalberg's power - readily filled by replacing him with David O. Selznick and Walter Wanger as unit producers. When Thalberg returned to MGM in August 1933, he was consigned to being just another unit producer, while his system of production supervision was entirely scrapped. Still, he did maintain a privileged status on the lot and held onto his considerable percentage of studio stock. Even as a unit producer, Thalberg helped create such massive hits as "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1934), "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935), "A Night at the Opera" (1935) and "San Francisco" (1936).<p>Despite churning out hit after hit and shifting the balance of power in Hollywood to himself, Thalberg's fragile health continued to deteriorate, much to the distress of Shearer and those close to him. During pre-production on "A Day at the Races" (1937), one of the most famous and successful Marx Brothers movies, he contracted pneumonia and died at the age of 37 on Sept. 14, 1936. At the time, Thalberg was preparing for the productions of "The Good Earth" (1937), which focused on a group of Chinese farmers struggling to survive, and "Marie Antoinette" (1937), which starred his wife Norma Shearer as, fittingly, the queen. All of Hollywood's studios briefly stopped working during his huge funeral, as the town's "Boy Wonder" was laid to rest. Although Thalberg never took screen credit, "The Good Earth" did feature a dedication to him. Meanwhile, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would institute the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, which recognized notable achievements by industry producers. Notable recipients through the years included, ironically, David O. Selznick, Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg. But most importantly, his hands-on approach to making movies would remain standard Hollywood practice through the years and became his true legacy.