David Picker is 82 now, and I'm so glad he wrote a book. He's a movie executive who has at one time or another headed up FOUR studios----United Artists, Paramount, Lorimar, and Columbia. He came from a long line of movie people because his grandfather became a partner of Marcus Loew, the man who formed Loew's Theatres. David got his start at Loew's and after much hard work, he ended up at United Artists in 1956 as head of the advertising department working under the legendary Max Youngstein.
UAs owners, in addition to Youngstein were Arthur Krim, Bob Benjamin, and David's uncle, Arnold Picker. UA was famous for not interfering with writers, directors or actors. They put their money where their mouth was and supported their projects 100%. They were a pleasure to deal with. The bottom line was important, but they had the hearts and guts of the old-time movie-makers. UA was NOT run by a corporation. It was run by human beings who really knew the movie business. By the time David was 30 years old, he was vice-president of production for UA.
Either in whole or part, he's been responsible for the following movies:
James Bond, Midnight Cowboy, A Hard Day's Night, Tom Jones, and Lenny, just to name a few.
Enjoy along with me..........
Tom Jones--David and his men never saw the dailies. They order a film from Tony Richardson and he delivered it. They just trusted Tony and gave him the money. The UK distributor thought it was "unreleasable in the UK" so UA did a small release here and let word of mouth build. You know the ending.
James Bond---It was mess trying to get the rights. Ian Fleming said he'd never sell them. Tons of people tried and failed. It was eventually found out that MCA, Lew Wasserman's company, represented Fleming. What no one knew was that quietly, a kind of off the radar producer, Harry Saltzman, made a deal with Fleming for one book for $50,000. He couldn't get anyone to buy it for film. Wolf Mankiewicz suggested his friend, Cubby Broccoli meet with Saltzman. They met; Harry called UA, UA had confidence in Cubby's track record, and finally James Bond was born.
Midnight Cowboy--The film wasn't going to be made because they couldn't find an actor to play opposite Dustin Hoffman's Rizzo. Genius casting director Marion Dougherty found Hoffman. Michael Sarrazin was wanted for the part of Joe Buck, but Monique James of Universal wouldn't let Sarrazin out of his contract! Can you imagine how he has felt all these years? (Dead now, by the way). Jon Voigt got it. UA had the guts to release the movie without an MPAA rating. They labeled it an X themselves, getting out front of the problem...and...well.....you know what happened.
Woody Allen---David loved him. They'd been friends for years. One day Woody called David and said he had a great idea for a film and we wanted to call it 'Bananas.' "Approved," said David, and that's how UA ended up releasing all of Woody's hits for years.
I'M GOING TO MAKE YOU BUY THE BOOK TO HEAR ABOUT THE BEATLES, STEVE MARTIN, TRUMAN CAPOTE, BOB FOSSE........AND ALSO HOW THE FOLLOWING FILMS GOT AWAY FROM UA--STAR WARS, THE GRADUATE, AND BONNIE AND CLYDE. I'VE ONLY JUST TOUCHED ON SOME OF THE TIDBITS.
And, as an aside, David sister, Jean Picker Firstenberg, is one of the greatest women ever to grace this earth. She was chairman of AFI for many, many years, and is still on their board and extremely active.