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Pandro Berman; Produced Films for 4 Decades

July 14, 1996|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pandro S. Berman, producer of four decades of landmark movies including "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "The Blackboard Jungle" and "Butterfield 8," died Saturday. He was 91.

Berman, who began his studio career at 18 and produced his first film at 24, died of congestive heart failure at his home in Beverly Hills, according to his son, Michael Berman.

Altogether, Berman produced 115 movies from 1929 to 1970, featuring such Hollywood notables as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis and Elizabeth Taylor.

"I just think he had an instinct for what was going to play, what was going to be a hit, like no one I ever met," Michael Berman said.

At the 1977 Oscar awards, Berman received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' highest honor, the Irving G. Thalberg Award. That was followed in 1992 by the David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award for Motion Pictures, the highest honor given by the Motion Picture Producers Guild of America.

Berman was born in Pittsburgh on March 28, 1905. His lifetime of achievement in the movies started in the 1930s with films ranging from the Astaire-Rogers dance favorites "The Gay Divorcee" and "Top Hat" to Hepburn's Oscar-winning performance in "Morning Glory."

Taylor went from childhood to Oscar-winning actress in Berman films, including "National Velvet," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Butterfield 8" and "Father of the Bride."

During the 1940s, Berman filmed "The Three Musketeers" with Gene Kelly, and "The Picture of Dorian Gray," which won Harry Stradling an Oscar for cinematography. In the 1950s he produced the gritty urban story "The Blackboard Jungle," starring Sidney Poitier and Glenn Ford. His last major film was "Move," a 1970 drama starring Elliott Gould.

Besides his son, he is survived by his daughters Susan Moshay and Cynthia Schaffel, all of Beverly Hills, and several grandchildren. He was married twice; both wives are deceased. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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