Former Partners of Stanley Kramer
SIMPP Producers David Loew, Armand Deutsch, and Robert Stillman
In the early career of Stanley
Kramer it is notable that Kramerís ability to find financiers brought him
into contact with several other independents members also at formidable points
in their careers. In particular, Kramer describes his apparent ability to be
able to attract the backing of wealthy individuals "who made their money in
commerce but dreamed of becoming moguls." Though Kramerís partnership
with them were fleeting, we see each of them resurfacing as SIMPP members,
including David Loew, Armand Deutsch, and Robert
Excerpt from A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World by Stanley Kramer
pages 6-9, 13-16
I finally found work in a "swing gang" at one of the studios,
moving more furniture. It seemed as if Hollywood had decided that was the ideal
job for me. In my spare time I wrote some screenplays, one of which, Stunt
Girl, I sold to Republic Studios, a small company that specialized in
low-budget Westerns and action pictures. Republic was owned by Herbert Yates,
who bought my script as a vehicle for his young wife, Vera Hruba Ralston, an
Olympic skater he was trying to make into a star. Stunt Girl, though, was
never made, and I continued working as a prop man until I was fired after five
or six months. Then I made a fortunate connection at MGM, where I went to work
in the research department and finally in the editing room.
In due time producer Albert Lewin, who had become my boss at MGM, formed an
independent production company with David Loew, and
they took me with them. I worked in various capacities on two of their films,
Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence and So Ends Our Night,
the picture that gave Glenn Ford his first break. . . .
My career with Lewin and Loew was destined to be short because in early 1943
my draft number came up, and I had to get ready for induction into the army. I
volunteered before I was drafted, in the spring of '43, in the hope that I could
work in an army film unit. To help me in this ambition, Lewin and Loew very
decently gave me the title "associate producer," a big boost in
getting me assigned to a unit stationed in Astoria, Long Island, New York. You
had to have a background in the film industry to get assigned to such a unit.
I went to basic training for three months at Camp Crowder in Missouri, then
directly to Astoria, where I worked first on the Army and Navy Screen
Magazine, which was like a March of Time newsreel for the troops.
Later I got into other projects, including training films. It was a good
experience that furthered my education in the various uses of film. . . .
After my army discharge I returned to Hollywood, where I found the whole town
waiting to ignore me. I scurried and scrounged for some kind of job until I
finally decided if I wanted one, I'd have to invent it myself. That's when I
decided to declare myself a producer.
Armand Deutsch, an heir to Sears Roebuck money, was the first person who
seemed to take me seriously as a producer. I had met him at some New York social
event when I was in the Signal Corps, and we had kept in touch. He came to
Hollywood in 1947 with the dream of more than one rich man: to get into the
movie business. He needed an ambitious young fellow to show him the ropes, and I
At that time there was excitement in Hollywood about Taylor Caldwell's new
novel, This Side of Innocence. Some of the big studios were bidding for
it. With Deutsch's backing I went to Annie Laurie Williams, Miss Caldwell's
agent. Annie was a great believer in astrology, so she looked up my sign. The
stars told her I was destined to become a big success. That was all she needed
to know. She sold us the film rights even though both Fox and MGM wanted the
Here we were, Deutsch and I, two nobodies in the film world but owners of a
very hot property. We hired Don Ettlinger to write a screenplay which Deutsch
paid for, and the screenplay was good enough to make the property hotter than
ever. But at this point Deutsch had second thoughts about me. To him I was just
a kid. Fearing I couldn't handle such a big project, he bought me out and
replaced me with some high-powered operatives who apparently didn't know any
more than I did. The picture was never made.
With the settlement I received from Deutsch, I decided to form my own
company. As minor partners I took on Carl Foreman, who was still looking for
work, Herbert Baker, a bright comedy writer, and George Glass, one of the best
publicity men in town. I was fortunate to get Glass, with whom I had worked in
the Lewin-Loew partnership before the war. He was a bright man and a very smooth
The one notable thing I had done in the Signal Corps was to option two Ring
Lardner stories from his family. Both had New York settings. One, "The Big
Town," was a story about the vicissitudes of out-of-towners trying to make
a name for themselves in New York. The other, "Champion," was a story
about the fight game and its cruelties. I didn't know exactly what I planned to
do with either story, but fortunately the options were not expensive and
possession of them gave me a chance to dream. Now I had the opportunity to do
more. These stories seemed ideal properties for me since they were both set in
New York, and New York was my turf, the town in which I had been born and
raised. . . .
The problem with "Champion" was that it would be a fight picture,
and there had been so many, it seemed to me the public was getting tired of
them; so we plowed ahead confidently with "The Big Town," even after
we were forced to rename it because Edward G. Robinson had a radio show by that
name. (I should have considered that beforehand. I had once sold Robinson a
story for the show!) After we deliberated and agonized for a while, "The
Big Town" became So This Is New York.
The next thing we had to do was find the money to finance it. Seven banks
turned us down flat. So we had no choice but to look for private capital. There
were at that time, as I'm sure there are today, a lot of wealthy men like Armand
Deutsch, men who made their money in commerce but dreamed of becoming moguls in
the more celebrated field of motion pictures, where they could translate their
riches into fame and glamour, or at least a chance to hobnob with the stars and
be interviewed by the Hollywood press. In our office we had a young man named
Robert Stillman, who indicated to me when I was scrounging for money that his
father was just such a wealthy man. The elder Stillman had made his fortune in
the garment industry but now lived in Florida, enjoying the fruits of his labor.
He had money to invest, and he was eager to put it in the movie business. I'm
sure he would have preferred to invest it in a David Selznick or Alfred
Hitchcock film, but since such were not open to him, he decided to take a chance
on an unknown producer.
When we made contact through his son, Stillman invited me to Florida. But
since I couldn't afford the ticket, I returned the invitation, getting him to
California at no cost to myself. By the time we were through negotiating, he had
agreed to guarantee the total financing for So This Is New York, something over
$600,000. . . .
Though the setting was New York, we shot very little of the picture there,
mostly exteriors. Filming on location was not as common then as it is now,
especially for low-budget pictures. We took some space in Chaplin's old studio
on La Brea near Sunset, which he rented out when he wasn't filmmming there. It
seemed like a good omen to use Charlie's own space for a comedy. . . .
CLICK HERE for more on the Chaplin
None of us ever remotely suspected such an unhappy result while we were
shooting the picture. In the office and on the set, we were all rolling on the
floor with laughter at the routines Foreman and Herbie Baker had written.
Apparently, we were gathered in a fool's paradise, telling each other what a
marvelous little hit we were concocting. We could never have imagined that we
might provoke the kind of reaction suggested by one particularly brutal comment
card received at a preview in Westwood: "What belongs in a toilet shouldn't
be exhibited first in a theater."
It wasn't until we finished the film that we realized we were in trouble. We
had a lot of difficulty finding a company willing to distribute it. Finally
United Artists took the film on, but they never did show it in a first-run New
York theater. When it opened in one of the smaller houses, the critics and
public let us know that we had missed. The reviewers were unmerciful, almost
gleeful in their cruel disdain. It was not that people didn't laugh enough. They
didn't laugh at all. I was humiliated, and Mr. Stillman's investment was lost.
Even my mother reacted badly. She had always wanted me to be a lawyer, and she
Kramer, Stanley, with Thomas M. Coffey. A Mad, Mad, Mad,
Mad World: A Life in Hollywood. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1997, pp. 6-9,