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Robert Evans, one of the most influential producers in the history of Hollywood, passed away yesterday at age 89.

Evans was a not-very-good actor who eventually became the head of Paramount Pictures in the late sixties, and after that became an independent producer based at Paramount. The films for which he can justifiably claim credit include: Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, Serpico, True Grit, Harold and Maude, Marathon Man, Black Sunday, Chinatown, The Godfather, and The Godfather, Part 2.

He was a legendary raconteur who was married seven times (once to Ali McGraw, who eventually left him for Steve McQueen), had one cocaine arrest on his record, and once was suspected of being involved with a murder of a film investor. (He was not charged, indicted or convicted, but it did make him a temporary pariah in Hollywood, where the hits you make always have been more important than the hits you may have ordered.)

In its appreciation, Variety writes, "Evans represented a unique fusion: of the Old Hollywood and the New, of the desire to make hits and the desire to make art, of the producer as backroom wheeler-dealer and the producer as sexy media-age showman. Evans could be all those things at once because even at the height of his power, he never stopped regarding himself as an actor, as a player who succeeded by taking on the role of a player … the role of producer became the perfect fit for him. He was born not to tell a story but to sell it."

And yet, he also was a pretty good storyteller - not just because he was adept at editing movies after they'd been shot (sometimes while battling with directors), but also as demonstrated in a documentary about him, The Kid Stays In The Picture, based on his memoir, which is enormously entertaining.

The New York Times recalls that Evans was terrific at "personal mythmaking," once telling a reporter, "I’ve always been a gambler. “Craps. Poker. Pictures."
KC's View:
Evans once came to talk to a film class I was taking at Loyola Marymount University in 1976, bringing with him Marathon Man before it had been released. As I remember the evening, he was a hoot - tons of style, loaded with charm, overflowing with stories, a little bit full of it and himself, but also passionate about what he did for a living … and it is this last quality that I think has the greatest and broadest applicability, offering lessons for every business.

Variety aptly sums his career up this way: "The ultimate truth of Robert Evans’ career is that it was his instincts as a producer that were legendary. He believed in the movies he was making. And it was his destiny to arrive at a moment when the revolutionary artists who were coming up in Hollywood needed someone to believe in them. Robert Evans was that someone. In producing the films he did, he changed film history, making himself a timeless character within it."