Hal B. Wallis

Active - 1930 - 1975  |   Born - Sep 14, 1898   |   Died - Oct 5, 1986   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Crime

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Biography by Bruce Eder

One of the movies' true Horatio Alger figures, Hal B. Wallis rose from impoverished office boy -- forced out of school to help support his family at the age of 14--to become one of Hollywood's most respected and honored producers. From a job at one of Los Angeles's top movie theaters, he was hired by the Warner brothers, and joined Warner Bros. studios in the publicity department. He became head of production until Darryl F. Zanuck replaced him, but with Zanuck's exit in 1933, Wallis was returned to the job of executive in charge of production, and he was responsible for much of the best of the studio's output -- at least in terms of putting together the actors, directors, and other personnel--for the next 11 years. Wallis' crowning achievement was probably Casablanca, one of the most honored movies in Hollywood history, but there are at least a dozen other brilliant movies, including Now, Voyager, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Story of Louis Pasteur, Captain Blood, The Petrified Forest, The Roaring Twenties, Angels with Dirty Faces, Dark Victory, and The Sea Hawk, that can be credited to Wallis or the producers and directors whom he kept under contract. In 1944, Wallis left Warner Bros. to begin a long career as an independent producer, and was responsible for such films as The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, I Walk Alone, Sorry Wrong Number, The Furies, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, King Creole, The Rainmaker, The Sons of Katie Elder, Barefoot in the Park, and True Grit, in the process "discovering" such stars as Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, and giving them some of the juiciest roles of their early careers. Wallis was married to former actress Martha Hyer.

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