Jerry Weintraub, Legendary Promoter-Turned-Producer, Dies at 77

Jerry Weintraun
Michael Buckner/Getty Images for UNICEF

Emcee and Danny Kaye Humanitarian Peace Award presenter Jerry Weintraub attends the 2014 UNICEF Ball presented by Baccarat at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on January 14, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.  

Jerry Weintraub, who produced such hits as The Karate Kid and the Ocean' series, died at his Palm Springs home on Monday, according to TMZ. He was 77. 

No further details of the passing were immediately available. 

A promoter and impresario in the old sense, Weintraub was a larger-than-life, Damon Runyon-esque character. A steely, hard-charging personality, he was wildly successful in a ranging entertainment career that spanned over 50 years.

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Before his success as a motion picture producer, Weintraub was a force in the management and musical fields. Weintraub spent more than two decades promoting concerts and some of the top musical acts in the world: Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, the Beach Boys, the Pointer Sisters and John Denver among them.

His foray into movies came after a Weintraub-produced John Denver performance where he met director Robert Altman, who sent him a prospective project: Nashville. The 1975 film went on to garner five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

In 1983, Weintraub signed a three-year, right-of-first refusal pact with Columbia Pictures. He also produced TV programs and a wide range of films, beginning with Nashville, which he executive-produced. He films also included: Diner, Oh, God! September 30, 1955, Cruising and three sequels to The Karate Kid.

At one brief juncture in 1985, Weintraub served for roughly five months as chairman and CEO of United Artists, but the studio was not big enough for both he and owner Kirk Kerkorian. After being fired, Weintraub rebounded to form his own film and TV production company, Weintraub Entertainment Group.

At the time, WEG was the largest privately financed start-up in motion picture-industry history. However, it folded ignominiously in 1990 after settling a lawsuit alleging its brokerage firm had misrepresented the amount of money pledged to it by Columbia.

He founded Jerry Weintraub Prods., based at Warner Bros. Studios. His first film was Pure Country, starring country singer George Strait. He subsequently produced an array of feature films, including The Specialist, Vegas Vacation, The Avengers and Soldiers.

The company produced such megahits as Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen. He produced the family film Nancy Drew and the remake The Karate Kid

Weintraub always maintained a perspective as a “kid from the Bronx” and reveled in associating with celebrities, world leaders and industrialists, including George W. Bush, who was a neighbor and friend in Kennebunkport. Engagingly immodest, Weintraub had acquaintances and cronies across all demographic and cultural lines.

His business ventures were similarly eclectic. In addition to his entertainment industry endeavors, he held large real- estate investments and such ventures as an Elvis Museum in Tokyo, as well as a spa in Beverly Hills.

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.


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