As Par head of sales he shepherded pics like '10 Commandments'
Sixty-year showbiz vet Jerome Pickman, who tubthumped pics at Fox, Par, Col and Lorimar, died Nov. 18 in Sutton Place, N.Y. of complications from pneumonia. He was 95.
As head of Paramount sales, Pickman worked on Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” “To Catch a Thief” and “Rear Window” and Cecil B. DeMille’s “The 10 Commandments,” “The Greatest Show on Earth” and “Samson and Delilah.”
Alan Wardrope, who worked with Pickman at Paramount said, “Jerry and his tremendous contribution to the movie industry won’t quickly be forgotten, Jerry and his brother Milton were giants of the industry and with the sad passing of Jerry so comes to end an era for Hollywood.”
Pickman started as a journo at the Brooklyn Daily Journal in the 1930s, before switching to showbiz. He became a band roadie including for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Frank Sinatra.
During World War II he oversaw and operated four Camel Caravan variety show units, precursor to the USO. In 1944, Pickman joined 20th Century Fox, rising to be eastern publicity manager before joining Selznick and Vanguard and thence to Eagle Lion.
In 1950 he joined Par as head of worldwide marketing. In a 2007 article in his synagogue’s newsletter, Pickman described his habit of visiting the set of every production he was charged with. When DeMille was shooting “The 10 Commandments” in Egypt, he was barred admittance as a Jew. But DeMille contacted the State Dept. and arranged for a visa and Pickman was able to get into the country.
When German authorities threatened to give the film a restrictive “adults only” rating due to partial nudity and “the glorification of Moses,” Pickman called on DeMille who contacted the local cardinal and got the film the required G.
“To me, the film industry is one of the few — maybe the only — truly authentic national art forms. Jews were a
major force in creating and promulgating American films,” he wrote in the Central Synagogue newsletter. “I was one of the lucky ones who got to play a part in its growth and contribution to art and civilization. And, as could only happen in America, a young ‘flack’ of Hebrew origin from Brooklyn and an erudite Episcopalian from Massachusetts could work together to ensure that one of the greatest motion pictures ever made would be seen around the world by more people than had ever viewed a motion picture at the time.”
After Par, Pickman headed to Columbia Pictures, marshalling into release such B.O. winners as “Cat Ballou” and “Born Free.”
He subsequently ran the theatrical distribution arm of the Walter Reade Organization, and segued into his own distrib for Reade pix, American Continental Films. After a fallout with Walter Reade Jr. and the Org during which he was once barred from its offices, Pickman in 1971 joined with William J. Levitt to form Levitt-Pickman Film Corp., which specialized in offbeat and specialty product, ranging from Fellini’s “The Clowns” to Andy Warhol’s “Heat” and a telepic, “The Groove Tube.” By 1982 he was flying solo and the company had been renamed Pickman Films. He never retired from showbiz and was pitching scripts upto the end. He was also working on his memoirs with film historian Sheldon Hall, skedded to be published next year.
And in 1978 Lorimar tapped him as head of distribution. “Jerry Pickman’s addition to the Lorimar executive force gives us one of the strongest lineups in the industry,” then Lorimar prexy Peter Bart was quoted as saying in Daily Variety.
His wife of 50 years, Minett, predeceased him; brother Milton died in 1993; survivors include two daughters and numerous grandchildren.