Biopic producer sets project on music exec

Producer Marvin Worth has set up a project at Warner Bros. about the life of John Hammond, the music-biz legend responsible for discovering Billie Holiday, and later for signing Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to their first record contracts at Columbia.

The project is now in the early stages of development. Worth, who is working with Hammond’s family to develop the pic, is lining up a writer to pen the script and has acquired some of the music rights. He also has acquired a treatment by scribe Millard Lampell.

Hammond was born into part of the Vanderbilt fortune, and spent his life standing up for blacks’ civil rights and pursuing his passion for music, whether it be jazz or rock.

As a Columbia executive and producer on and off from the 1930s through the ’70s, he was credited with a rare ability to spot talent. He heard Holiday for the first time in a Harlem nightclub in 1932 and brought her to the attention of Benny Goodman, who ended up employing her.

Hammond also worked with an array of other music greats, such as Count Basie, Teddy Wilson and Benny Carter. Later he signed Pete Seeger, Aretha Franklin, Ray Bryant, Carolyn Hester and Dylan to Columbia.

In the early 1970s, Springsteen came to Hammond’s office with his manager and demanded to be heard. Hammond listened and signed him in 1973.

Hammond also fought to break color barriers in nightclubs and on the radio, and later became an NAACP board member. He died in 1987.

Worth’s recent work at Warners includes “Malcolm X,” and he is also developing a biopic of James Dean for the studio, with Marc Rocco attached to direct.

Lampell was repped in the sale by Alan Gasmer at William Morris.

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