Former MGM chairman-CEO Frank Rosenfelt, who led the studio’s acquisition of United Artists, died Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 85.
Rosenfelt started as an attorney and rose to head the studio after Kirk Kerkorian’s purchase.
Born in Brooklyn, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII and, after being injured, attended Cornell U. and Cornell Law School. He joined RKO’s legal department after law school and stayed there for five years before moving to MGM.
Rosenfelt joined MGM in 1955 and became general counsel in 1969. One of his memorable accomplishments during this time was acquiring the movie rights to Russian writer Boris Pasternak’s book “Dr. Zhivago,” which were owned by producer Carlo Ponti. He questioned whether writers in Communist Russia had rights to sell their own properties, and tracking down a scholar of Russian law, he found that authors retained property rights. He then had to secure top Russian literature scholars to help provide a translation that would satisfy the terms of the contract.
After Kerkorian acquired the studio in 1972, he offered Rosenfelt the job of president, chair and CEO.
During his time at MGM, he oversaw hundreds of films and developed friendships with talent such as Stanley Kubrick, who made “2001: A Space Odyssey” for MGM, and Neil Simon, writer of “The Sunshine Boys.”
Rosenfelt oversaw Kerkorian’s 1981 purchase of United Artists for $380 million from the Transamerica Corp.
Stepping down as CEO for personal reasons in 1982, he became vice chairman of the board, based in London, and later operated an independent consultancy.
He was a member of the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Rosenfelt is survived by his wife, Judith; sons Fred and Peter; daughter Karen Rosenfelt, a producer; three grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and two broth-ers.
Donations may be made to Tower Cancer Research Foundation, 9090 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 200, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.