William C. Thomas

Active - 1931 - 1986  |   Born - Aug 11, 1903   |   Died - Apr 2, 1984   |   Genres - Drama, Adventure, Crime, Mystery, Western

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Biography by Hal Erickson

A Californian through and through, William C. Thomas entered the movie business right after graduation from USC. He started out as a screenwriter, then moved up the ladder to become a staff producer at Paramount. In partnership with William H. Pine, Thomas set up an autonomous production unit using Paramount facilities, contract players and distribution channels. The proprietors of the Pine-Thomas unit were known as the "Two Dollar Bills" for the following reasons: their films stayed scrupulously within their tiny budgets, they always made money, and both Pine's and Thomas' first names were Bill. Most Pine-Thomas films were action/adventures, usually starring such journeyman actors as Richard Arlen, Chester Morris, Buster Crabbe and Jean Parker. Originally, each of the unit's films was supposed to focus on aviation, but the plotlines also embraced oil digging, firefighting and espionage. From 1949 onward, the Pine-Thomas films were endowed with increased budgets, bigger star names (Fred MacMurray, Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan, Rhonda Fleming) and liberal use of lush Technicolor. William C. Thomas and his partner William H. Pine closed out their careers at United Artists with a handful of second features, including Nightmare (1956) and The Big Caper (1957); their partnership ended with the death of Bill Pine in the late '50s.

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