Motion picture producer Walter Shenson, who produced the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night,” died Tuesday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills following an extended illness. He was 81.Shenson, a former ad-pub man for Paramount and later Columbia Pictures, had produced three minor films in England when United Artists approached him about producing a low-budget film featuring the world’s newest pop sensations, the Beatles. The film, made for approximately $560,000, became a huge hit when released in August 1964, grossing approximately $13.5 million in film rental and TV sales. The following year, Shenson produced the Beatles’ second feature “Help!,” which helped solidify the Beatles as the pop phenomenon of the 1960s. Shenson’s contracts with United Artists brought him full ownership of both films 15 years after their initial release. Shenson’s astute deal with United Artists was rare considering United Artists paid full freight for the production costs of the films. Shenson, a native of San Francisco, a graduate of Stanford U. and a combat veteran of World War II, began his career on the Paramount lot in the publicity department. Following the war, he worked as a publicist for Columbia Pictures handling unit publicity chores on such films as “From Here to Eternity” and “Caine Mutiny.” He worked with Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak and Rita Hayworth. He relocated to London in 1955 and spent two years being in charge of publicity on Columbia’s European productions before setting out on his own as an independent producer. Shenson’s producing career began with “The Mouse That Roared,” which starred Peter Sellers, followed by its sequel “The Mouse on the Moon.” Additional film producing credits include “A Matter of Who,” “30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia,” “Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River” and “A Talent for Loving.” He directed one film, the Jack Warden starrer “Welcome to the Club.” Shenson recently negotiated with Miramax to theatrically re-release “A Hard Day’s Night” on Dec. 1. He is survived by two sons and a sister. A memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mount Sinai Memorial Park.
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