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Hal B. Wallis
HalWallis.jpg
Born
Aaron Blum Wolowicz

(1898-10-19)October 19, 1898
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died October 5, 1986(1986-10-05) (aged 87)
Resting place [my Bed
Occupation Film producer
Years active 1931–1983
Spouse(s)
Louise Fazenda
(m. 1927; died 1962)

Martha Hyer
(m. 1966; his death 1986)
Children 1

Harold Brent Wallis (born Aaron Blum Wolowicz; October 19, 1898 – October 5, 1986) was an American film producer. He is best remembered for producing Casablanca (1942), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and True Grit (1969), along with many other major films for Warner Bros. featuring such film stars as Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Errol Flynn.

Later on, for a long period, he was connected with Paramount Pictures and oversaw films featuring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Elvis Presley, and John Wayne.

Life and career

Aaron Blum Wolowicz was born October 19, 1898 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Eva (née Blum) and Jacob Wolowicz, who were Ashkenazi Jews from the Suwałki region of Poland who changed their surname to Wallis.

His family moved in 1922 to Los Angeles, California, where he found work as part of the publicity department at Warner Bros. in 1923. Within a few years, Wallis became involved in the production end of the business and would eventually become head of production at Warner. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, he was involved with the production of more than 400 feature-length movies.

Among the more significant movies he produced were Casablanca, Dark Victory, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, and Now, Voyager.

In March 1944, Wallis won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 16th Academy Awards. During the ceremony, when the award was announced for Casablanca, Wallis got up to accept, but studio head Jack L. Warner rushed up to the stage "with a broad, flashing smile and a look of great self-satisfaction," Wallis later recalled. "I couldn't believe it was happening. Casablanca had been my creation; Jack had absolutely nothing to do with it. As the audience gasped, I tried to get out of the row of seats and into the aisle, but the entire Warner family sat blocking me. I had no alternative but to sit down again, humiliated and furious ... Almost forty years later, I still haven't recovered from the shock." This incident would lead Wallis to leave Warner Bros. the next month.

Wallis started to work as an independent producer, enjoying considerable success both commercially and critically. The first screenwriters he hired for his new enterprise were Ayn Rand and Lillian Hellman. Among his financial hits were the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedies, and several of Elvis Presley's movies.

He produced True Grit, for which John Wayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor of 1969, and its sequel.

After moving to Universal Pictures, he produced Mary, Queen of Scots (starring Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson) and Anne of the Thousand Days (starring Richard Burton and Canadian-born actress Geneviève Bujold). He received 16 Academy Award producer nominations for Best Picture, winning for Casablanca in 1943.

For his consistently high quality of motion picture production, he was twice honored with the Academy Awards' Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. He was also nominated for seven Golden Globe awards, twice winning awards for Best Picture. In 1975, he received the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.

In 1980, he published his autobiography, Starmaker, co-written with Charles Higham.

In the 1930s, Wallis invested in residential real estate development in Sherman Oaks, CA. He named Halbrent Avenue after himself, using his nickname "Hal" and his middle name "Brent". Most of its original homes still stand, and it is very close to Ventura and Sepulveda Boulevards and the Sherman Oaks Galleria used extensively in the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Hyer and his second wife, actress Martha Hyer, contributed funds towards the construction of “The Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theatre”, a black box theater, at Northwestern University.

Marriages

Wallis was married to actress Louise Fazenda from 1927 until her death in 1962. They had one son, Brent, who became a psychiatrist. Wallis was married to actress Martha Hyer from 1966 until his death in 1986.

Death

Wallis died in 1986 of complications of diabetes in Rancho Mirage, California, at the age of 88. News of his passing was not released until after his private memorial service was completed. U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan (who had worked for Wallis in On Santa Fe Trail and This Is the Army) sent condolences to the family. Wallis is interred in a crypt at the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Filmography

  • Little Caesar (1931)
  • Central Airport (1933)
  • The Petrified Forest (1936)
  • Kid Galahad (1937)
  • West of Shanghai (1937)
  • The Invisible Menace (1938)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  • Comet Over Broadway (1938)
  • Dark Victory (1939)
  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
  • All This, and Heaven Too (1940)
  • Castle on the Hudson (1940)
  • Santa Fe Trail (1940)
  • Sergeant York (1941)
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • They Died with Their Boots On (1941)
  • Casablanca (1942)
  • Now, Voyager (1942)
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
  • This Is the Army (1943)
  • Love Letters (1945)
  • You Came Along (1945)
  • The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
  • Desert Fury (1947)
  • So Evil My Love (1948)
  • The Fountainhead (1949)
  • Dark City (1950)
  • The Furies (1950)
  • The Rainmaker (1956)
  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
  • Loving You (1957)
  • King Creole (1958)
  • Career (1959)
  • G.I. Blues (1960)
  • Blue Hawaii (1961)
  • Summer and Smoke (1961)
  • Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962)
  • Fun in Acapulco (1963)
  • Wives and Lovers (1963)
  • Becket (1964)
  • Roustabout (1964)
  • The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
  • Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966)
  • Barefoot in the Park (1967)
  • Easy Come, Easy Go (1967)
  • True Grit (1969)
  • Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
  • Rooster Cogburn (1975)

Academy Awards

Year Award Film Winner
1931–32 Outstanding Production Five Star Final Irving ThalbergGrand Hotel
1932–33 I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang Winfield Sheehan – Cavalcade
1934 Flirtation Walk Harry Cohn – It Happened One Night
1935 Captain Blood Irving Thalberg and Albert Lewin – Mutiny on the Bounty
1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood Frank CapraYou Can't Take It With You
Four Daughters
Jezebel
1940 All This, and Heaven Too David O. SelznickRebecca
The Letter
1941 Outstanding Motion Picture The Maltese Falcon Darryl F. ZanuckHow Green Was My Valley
One Foot in Heaven
Sergeant York
1942 Kings Row Sidney Franklin – Mrs. Miniver
Yankee Doodle Dandy
1943 Casablanca Won
Watch on the Rhine Hal B. Wallis – Casablanca
1955 Best Motion Picture The Rose Tattoo Harold Hecht – Marty
1964 Best Picture Becket Jack L. Warner – My Fair Lady
1969 Anne of the Thousand Days Jerome Hellman – Midnight Cowboy

1938 and 1943 Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Awards

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