Praiser Robert McElwaine dies at 86

Clients included Errol Flynn and Red Skelton

Robert McElwaine, who worked as a praiser and later a playwright and lobbyist, died Jan. 31 in Washington, D.C. He was 86 and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

McElwaine worked as a praiser for MGM in the 1940s before seguing to his own company, where his clients included Errol Flynn, Red Skelton and the Andrews Sisters.

McElwaine was born in New York but grew up in Los Angeles where his father, Don, was a silent movie producer and also an MGM publicity agent. His brother Guy McElwaine was a top agent and briefly led Columbia studios.

After a stint in the Navy during WWII, McElwaine joined MGM. In a profile in the Washington Post in 2001, he talked about how the studio hushed up a thesp’s suicide attempt.

In 1949 Samuel Goldwyn lured him to direct publicity for Samuel Goldwyn Studios, where McElwaine met thesp Danny Kaye for whom he would later work. They struck up a lifelong friendship, which led to his writing “Danny and Sylvia: The Danny Kaye Musical” about Kaye and his songwriting wife, Sylvia Fine. Tuner, with music by Bob Bain, is playing Off Broadway.

McElwaine moved east in 1959 and became a publicist and lobbyist for the auto industry but continued to write other plays, including “The Titans,” about the Cuban missile crisis. In later years he lived in Washington, D.C., and was on the boards of the Kennedy Center productions and the National Theater.

Survivors include his wife, Alexandra; a son, a stepson; and four grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the Writers’ Center in Rockville, Md.

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