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October 5: A Walking Film Studio

Lawrence Bush
October 4, 2016

Hal B. Wallis (Aaron Blum Wolowicz), producer of more than four hundred films that garnered thirty different Academy Awards, died at 88 on this date in 1986. The classic movies that he produced included Little Caesar (1930), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1937), Sergeant York (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), Come Back, Little Sheba (1952), The Rainmaker (1956), Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957), and True Grit (1969) -- as well as several Elvis Presley movies and all of the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedies. In 1923, Wallis began his career at Warner Brothers as a publicist, but he became an independent producer within a few years and endured in that role for half a century, becoming known as “a walking major studio.” Among the actors he discovered were Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, and those he elevated to stardom included Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and James Cagney.

“All pictures are fun to make and though some of mine may not be accepted as works of art, it’s very important to me to state that I didn’t downgrade them and took as much time and money on them. I never concentrated on any one particular type of story. I read a lot of material and tried to find a property that could make a good film. I don’t think you have to be wedded to any particular style.”--Hal B. Wallis

​​​​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.