LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Robert Evans, the noted Hollywood producer who helped to bring films such as “Chinatown” and “The Godfather” to the big screen, died on Saturday night. He was 89.
Evans, who ran Paramount during the heydey of New Hollywood, was a studio exec straight from central casting complete with a libertine lifestyle that was recounted in his 1994 memoir, “The Kid Stays in the Picture.”
“There are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth. And no one is lying,” Evans once said. “Memories shared serve each one differently.”
Born in New York as Robert Shapera, Evans began his career in entertainment doing voice work on local radio shows but fame eluded him and he eventually went into sales and promotions for Evan-Picone, a women’s fashion company owned by his brother.
Evans was able to make the jump into an acting career when he was spotted by actress Norma Shearer at the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Shearer managed to land Evans a role as Irving Thalberg in the 1957 movie “Man of a Thousand Faces.”
He was later cast in the 1957 film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and 1959’s “The Best of Everything” opposite Hope Lange, Diane Baker and Joan Crawford.
A middling actor by his own admission, Evans moved into producing movies, landing at Paramount after securing the rights to the novel The Detective which he developed into a movie starring Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick, Jack Klugman, Robert Duvall, and Jacqueline Bisset.
Evans’ talent as a producer was spotted by Charles Bluhdorn, whose Gulf + Western-owned Paramount Studios and as part of a shakeup of the studio, Bluhdorn appointed Evans as head of production at Paramount.
Evans helped to turn Paramount Studios around, making it an industry powerhouse in the 1970s and 1980s, on the strength of hit films such as “The Godfather,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown,” “Harold & Maude,” “True Grit,” and “The Odd Couple.”
Despite his success at Paramount, Evans suffered personal setbacks during the period, most notably in 1980 when he pleaded guilty to federal misdemeanor charges for his role in a cocaine deal.
Following his conviction, his output as a producer became more sporadic and included high profile flops such as the 1984 crime drama “The Cotton Club” and the 1990 “Chinatown” sequel “The Two Jakes.”
In 1998, Evans suffered a series of strokes that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak. He eventually regained the ability to speak but faced mobility challenges for the rest of his life.
In 2002, his autobiography “The Kid Stays In The Picture” was made into a documentary directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein.
He was married and divorced seven times, including to actresses Sharon Hugueny, Camilla Sparv, Ali MacGraw, Leslie Ann Woodward, Victoria White and briefly to Catherine Oxenberg. He was also married to former Miss America Phyllis George.
He and MacGraw had a son, Josh, who is also an actor and director.