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Studio Boss Who 'Saved' The Godfather Dead at 89

Production chief Robert Evans made Paramount a powerhouse
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 28, 2019 3:48 PM CDT
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Robert Evans talks about his film "Chinatown" in his office in Beverly Hills in 1974.   (AP Photo/Jeff Robbins, File)
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(Newser) – Robert Evans, the protean, fast-living Hollywood producer and former Paramount Pictures production chief who backed such seminal 1970s films as Chinatown, The Godfather, and Harold and Maude, has died. He was 89. Evans' publicist, Monique Moss, confirmed that Evans died on Saturday, the AP reports. Evans was married and divorced seven times; he had his only child, Joshua, with actress Ali MacGraw. His career was a story of comebacks and reinventions. Evans had launched a successful women's clothing line with his brother and was visiting Los Angeles on business when actress Norma Shearer saw him sunbathing by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She persuaded producers to hire the handsome, dark-haired 26-year-old to play her late husband, movie mogul Irving Thalberg, in Man of a Thousand Faces.

After acting roles faded, Evans re-emerged at Paramount and converted the studio from a maker of mediocre films to the biggest hit machine in Hollywood, home to The Godfather and Love Story. For decades, the ever-tanned, large glasses-wearing Evans was one of Hollywood's most outsize and flamboyant personalities, encapsulating the romance of a bygone era when films were greenlit more on instinct than market research. He was a pivotal figure in a halcyon period of auteur-driven moviemaking, backing storied directors including Sidney Lumet, Hal Ashby and Peter Bogdanovich. He went to bat for The Godfather, which ran nearly three hours, by threatening to quit if was cut. "He saved the movie," producer Albert Ruddy said. "That's the problem with today's business," Evans told the Los Angeles Times in 2002. "It's not an art form, it's a barter form. The studios are run by committees of MBAs, but I've never seen an MBA who knows how to make people cry."

(Read more Hollywood stories.)

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