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S. Bronston; Producer of 'El Cid,' Other Epics

January 15, 1994|BURT A. FOLKART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Samuel Bronston, producer of such grandiose films as "El Cid," "55 Days at Peking," "Fall of the Roman Empire" and similar epics, has died at his son's home in Sacramento, it was reported Friday.

Bronston was 85 and had moved from his home in Houston when his health began to fail. The Russian-born, Sorbonne-educated photographer and film executive died Wednesday.

Bronston served for years as official photographer to the Vatican, producing in the 1940s a series of films for the Roman Catholic Church. He began in film sales with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in France. He formed an independent production company and came to the United States in 1937.

His early films included "Jack London" with Susan Hayward in 1943, "And Then There Were None" in 1945 and "Walk in the Sun," another 1945 movie that focused on the exploits of an Army patrol during the Italian campaign of World War II. Today it is considered among the most pristine of the anti-war pictures.

He also made "Ten Little Indians" and "City Without Men" in the 1940s.

Encouraged by his successes, he moved his operations to Madrid in the early 1950s, where he was credited with establishing Spain as an international film center.

There he produced "John Paul Jones," with Robert Stack and Bette Davis.

Perhaps the apex of his commercial film career came in 1961 with the release of "El Cid," the recently re-released tale of the legendary 11th-Century adventurer who drove the Moors from Spain.

It starred Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, and Heston has said the high-budget epic is among his favorites.

"El Cid" brought Bronston awards at the Charleston International Film Festival and the Golden Glove Hollywood Press Assn. award.

Among his last films was "Circus World" with John Wayne and Rita Hayworth, which won the 1964 Gran Prix Exceptionnel award in Brussels.

Survivors include his former wife, Dorothea, six children, 10 grandchildren and a brother and two sisters.

Memorial services are pending.

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