John Houseman

Pic producer paragons

He was born in Bucharest and raised in Paris, but his manner was that of an English gentleman. He was a man of the theater and a tremendous actor in plummy roles. Yet he also worked as an independent producer (often under the MGM banner), pursuing projects of rare literary or historic interest. His taste and his touch were impeccable, and the list has hardly a dull film in it: “They Live by Night” (Nicholas Ray’s debut), “Letter From an Unknown Woman” (maybe the best film Max Ophuls made in America), “On Dangerous Ground” (another great Ray noir), “The Bad and the Beautiful,” “Julius Caesar” (with Brando, James Mason and Gielgud) and “Lust for Life” (Kirk Douglas as van Gogh). But that list is more modest than an uncredited coup: He helped write “Citizen Kane” and guided it into a portrait of Orson Welles, his partner in the heady Mercury Theater days.

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