Pandro S. Berman

Active - 1928 - 1984  |   Born - Mar 28, 1905   |   Died - Jul 13, 1996   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy, Musical

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Pandro S. Berman's father Henry was general manager of Universal Pictures during Hollywood's formative years. The younger Berman spent most of the 1920s as an assistant director, learning the business from such masters as Mal St. Clair and Tod Browning. In 1930, Berman was hired as a film editor at fledgling RKO Radio Pictures, then became an assistant producer. When RKO supervising producer William LeBaron walked out during production of the ill-fated The Gay Diplomat (31), Berman took over LeBaron's responsibilities, remaining in the driver's seat until 1939. During the Berman regime, the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musicals hit their peak, Katharine Hepburn rose to prominence, and such RKO classics as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (39) and Gunga Din (39) came to fruition. Berman was willing to give creative people plenty of elbow room, but there were limits; having been coaxed by Katharine Hepburn and director George Cukor to push through production of the 1936 film Sylvia Scarlett, Berman reacted to the poor audience response to that film (the worst in RKO's history) by telling Hepburn and Cukor that he never wanted to see their faces again! Upset when an RKO power-play diminished his authority, Berman left for MGM in 1940, where he oversaw such productions as Ziegfeld Girl (41), National Velvet (44), Father of the Bride (50), The Blackboard Jungle (55) and Butterfield Eight (58). He survived several executive shake-ups at MGM and remained there until 1963, then went into independent production, closing out his career with the unsuccessful Move (70). The winner of the 1977 Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, Pandro S. Berman became a sort of guru to film historians in his twilight years, providing crystal-clear insights into the day-to-day operations of the old Hollywood Studio System. Berman died of congestive heart failure on July 13, 1996 in his Beverly Hills home; he was 91.

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