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Frank Rosenfelt, 85; led MGM in '70s and '80s, then United Artists

August 04, 2007|James Bates | Times Staff Writer

Frank Rosenfelt, who headed the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio for financier Kirk Kerkorian during the 1970s and early 1980s, died Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 85.

Rosenfelt joined MGM in 1955 as a lawyer, becoming general counsel in 1969.

As a longtime MGM executive, Rosenfelt had a hand in numerous popular films, including "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) and "The Sunshine Boys" (1975). He was credited with securing the movie rights for the 1965 film "Doctor Zhivago."

Another was "Network," the daring, prophetic look at the television business that featured Peter Finch as anchorman Howard Beale screaming, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

At the 1977 Academy Awards, Rosenfelt and other executives were confident that "Network" would win the Oscar for best picture.

When "Rocky" won instead, "nobody was allowed to mention the movie 'Rocky' in his house," Rosenfelt's granddaughter Stacey Lubliner said Friday.

In 1981, Rosenfelt led the negotiations for MGM to acquire United Artists from insurance giant Transamerica after UA incurred huge losses on its disastrous "Heaven's Gate" film.

In 1982, Rosenfelt's duties changed with the naming of lawyer Frank Rothman to oversee the studio. Rosenfelt, then a vice chairman at MGM/UA, was named chief executive of United Artists. He later moved to London for the company, eventually setting up a consulting business.

Born Nov. 15, 1921, Rosenfelt grew up in New York. He served in the Army under Gen. George S. Patton during World War II, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and earning a Purple Heart.

After graduating from Cornell University Law School, Rosenfelt joined the RKO studio in 1950 as a lawyer before moving on to MGM.

During his career in Hollywood, Rosenfelt befriended numerous artists and top executives. His close friends included directors Stanley Kubrick and David Lean, comedian George Burns, actor Cary Grant and former studio chief Sherry Lansing.

He was a member of the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1977 to 1985.

Rosenfelt's daughter, Karen, was a longtime senior production executive at Paramount Pictures and now works as a producer.

In addition to his daughter, Rosenfelt is survived by his wife, Judith; two sons, Fred and Peter; three grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and two brothers.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Tower Cancer Research Foundation, 9090 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 200, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

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james.bates@latimes.com

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