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Film producer and distributor Joseph E. Levine, a one-man tycoon who brought shlok to America (Godzilla, Hercules, and other pulp movies) as well as sophisticated films (The Graduate, Two Women, a Bridge Too Far), died at 81 on this date in 1987. Levine was in the film business for less than three decades — he got started at age 54, and made his first killing with Hercules, a dubbed Italian flick that had “musclemen, broads and a shipwreck and a dragon for the kids,” he said, as he mounted a sensationalist advertising campaign in the U.S. — yet he had his hand in nearly five hundred movies, popularized the pulp-movie double-bill, turned Sophia Loren into a Hollywood icon, and enabled Mike Nichols to make his first film with Dustin Hoffman in his first major role. Other films produced by Levine include The Carpetbaggers (1964) The Lion in Winter (1968), which won Katharine Hepburn the best-actress Oscar, The Producers (1968), Carnal Knowledge (1971), The Ruling Class (1972), and The Day of the Dolphin (1973).
“You can fool all of the people if the advertising is right.” --Joseph E. Levine
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.