June 1, 2001

Jack Haley Jr.—A Remembrance 1934-2001

With Jack, it was a friendship that went back over 40 years.

I had been working as an independent film researcher in New York when David Wolper persuaded me to come out to Los Angeles, and join his “huge” organization. I still remember my shock at entering the touted headquarters of Wolper Productions, which consisted of two rooms in a beat-up building on Sunset Boulevard. Wolper had the larger office. The smaller room contained a desk, which I would share with Jack. Sensing my disappointment, he put me at ease with a few irreverent remarks about Wolper. Talented, buoyant, carefree, blessed with a wicked sense of Irish humor, he became a close friend and colleague. A prince in the world of film royalty, extremely knowledgeable about Hollywood lore, Jack created a variety of documentaries dealing with the movies. These films, which were an important part of the Wolper image, were his province and trademark. I took care of war, death and pestilence.

In 1967, the Wolper organization split. I joined Dave Wolper when he formed a new company. Jack remained with the newly established Metromedia, then soon left to pursue a successful career of his own, ranging from being President of Fox Television to producing That’s Entertainment!.

During the years that followed, we remained close friends. On various occasions when I was completing a film, I would ask Jack to screen the rough cut with me—just the two of us at a movieola. He was one of the few people I could trust to review my work with sense and sensibility, without resorting to any form of egotistical criticism. On one of those occasions I showed him my rough cut of If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium. He offered a few minor corrections, then said, “By the way, you should take out the five-minute scene in the German Castle.” I protested, “Do you know how much it cost? And it’s funny!” “Right”, he said. “Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with advancing the story.” I took it out.

As the years went by, we teamed up on various occasions—once for four years, when we co-produced the television series Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Always upbeat, unruffled by the numerous crises that arose during the series, he was a perfect partner. However, there was one occasion, which I remember fondly, when he showed that he could be pushed only so far. Jack and I were having lunch with the star of the series. The occasion slowly turned into a nightmare as the actor began a tirade regarding his salary, working conditions, scripts, directors, etc. Jack listened patiently for about ten minutes, then rose from his chair and quietly said, “I’m too old, too rich and too successful to listen to this drivel,” and left the room.

I will miss you, Jack.

 

Mel Stuart is former President of the IDA.

 

Select Filmography—Documentary

1957-1959-U.S. Air Force—Training Films and Documentaries
1958--Operation Zero-Zero—director (Air Force Commendation Medal)
1959-1967--David L. Wolper Productions
1959--The Race for Space—co-producer (winner, Best Documentary, San Francisco Film Festival; nominee, Academy Award, Best Documentary Feature)
1962—Biography series—writer/director (winner, Peabody Award)
1963-64—Hollywood and the Stars—executive producer/director/co-writer (for NBC-TV) (winner, two Silver Lion Awards, Venice Film Festival)
1967—National Geographic: The Hidden World—writer/producer/director (winner, Grand Prix, International Television Festival; Peabody Award; Silver Lion Award, Venice Film Festival)
1968-2000-Independent Producer
1974—That’s Entertainment!—producer/writer/director
1975—50 Years of MGM—executive producer/writer (nominee, Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement)
1977—Life Goes to War:Hollywood and the Homefront—writer/producer/director (nominee, Directors Guild of America Award, Best Television Documentary)
1980—That’s Hollywood!: Black Magic—writer/producer (winner, NAACP Image Award, Best Documentary)
1982—Hollywood: The Gift of Laughter—writer/producer/director
1985—That’s Dancing—writer/producer/director
1987—Minnelli on Minnelli—producer (four Emmy nominations)
1990—The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic—producer/director
1991—Funny Women of Television: A Museum of Television and Radio Tribute—producer/director
1995—100 Years of the Hollywood Western—producer/director

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