Paramount’s Longest Employee, A.C. Lyles, Dies at 95

A C Lyles Obit
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

A.C. Lyles, whose long association with Paramount began when he was 10 years old, died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 95.

Lyles started out at Paramount working for Adolph Zukor more than 80 years ago, worked as a studio publicist for many years and even served as a producer on HBO’s “Deadwood.”

Lyles was one of the last of a breed who made the transition from the old classic studio system to the new Hollywood. Eminently likable and adaptable, Lyles worked his way up from the mailroom and labored for many years in publicity and advertising, giving him an understanding of every facet of the making and selling of motion pictures. Lyles went on to produce low-budget Westerns, and later, television movies and series.

Except for a brief period on his own, he hung his hat at Paramount throughout his exceptionally long career. Such an expert was he on the company’s history that he often lectured on the subject and was the studio’s unofficial ambassador of good will.

RELATED: Paramount’s Longest Employee A.C. Lyles Celebrates 95th Birthday With Mickey Rooney, Buzz Aldrin

Andrew Craddock Lyles was born in Jacksonville, Fla. He actually started working for the studio via its then-owned Florida Theater, where Lyles worked as a page boy and then usher for almost a decade. He had met the studio’s head, Adolph Zukor, during his usher days and corresponded with him until he had saved enough money to migrate west in 1938, he told the Los Angeles Times.

AC Lyles Paramount

Once in Hollywood, he went straight to Par and managed to snare a meeting with Zukor, who placed him in the mailroom, where Lyles made the princely sum of $15 a week. He also ran errands for the studio boss and escorted visitors around the lot. By 1940 he had been promoted to the studio’s publicity department; later he supervised advertising as well. After serving in various production capacities on several films including 1956’s “The Mountain,” starring Spencer Tracy, he got his producing stripes in 1957 with James Cagney’s only directorial effort, “Short Cut to Hell,” a low-budget gangster film. Thereafter he remained at Paramount as a producer of mostly low-budget Westerns; he provided the financing, and the studio provided the facilities and distribution.

In 1959 he was associate producer on several episodes of the TV Western “Rawhide,” starring Clint Eastwood.

During the 1960s Lyles’ credits included “Raymie,” “The Young and the Brave,” “Law of the Lawless,” “Black Spurs,” “Young Fury,” “Town Tamer,” “Johnny Reno,” “Waco,” “Red Tomahawk,” “Fort Utah” and “Buckskin.” Most of them were strict programmers (and in color) during a period when the Western had virtually been co-opted by television. They starred veteran Hollywood stars like Rory Calhoun, Dana Andrews and Dale Robertson.

After leaving Par for a short spell (he produced the famously risible horror film “Night of the Lepus,” about killer rabbits), he returned and joined the studio’s television division, where he was noted for his ABC Afterschool Specials as well as work for the CBS Festival of Lively Arts for Young People and NBC Special Treat programs. His 1979 special “A Christmas for Boomer” was aimed at young people and was followed by the limited series “Here’s Boomer.” Lyles also served in a producing capacity on “Dear Mr. President.”

Under the NBC World Premiere movies umbrella, Lyles handled such films as “Flight to Holocaust” and “The Last Day” in the 1970s.

Much more recently, he was crediting as consulting producer on David Milch’s HBO Western series “Deadwood” in 2005-06.

In 1990, he made a rare appearance in front of the camera in a small role in Paramount’s “The Hunt for Red October.”

He was also featured in numerous documentaries about old Hollywood, including 1998’s “Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream,” “Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song” (2001), “The Definitive Elvis” (2002), “Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic” (2004), “Why Be Good? Sexuality & Censorship in Early Cinema” (2007), “The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk” (2007), “Hollywood Singing and Dancing” (2008), “Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years” (2008) and, most recently, “1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year” (2009), “Pure in Heart: The Life and Legacy of Lon Chaney Jr.” (2010) and “Hollywood Renegade” (2011).

In 1990 Lyles was honored by the Boy Scouts of America with its Jimmy Stewart Good Turn Award, and he was also enshrined on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1992 he was honored by the Publicists Guild of America, of which he was a founding member.

He is survived by his wife, Martha. Donations may be made to the Motion Picture Fund.

(Richard Natale contributed to this report.)

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  1. David Jackson says:

    A True Gentlemen..and a Truly Gentle Man….

  2. An incredible man. So fortunate our family had the honor of personally meeting & being toured at Paramount. Very sad to hear of his recent passing. Our deepest condolences to Mrs. Lyles.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I was lucky enough to have been at A.C.s birthday celebration. He was a wonderful man. He celebrated his birthday, Mickey Rooney was there celebrating having been happily separated for over a year, Buzz Aldrin was celebrating a new divorce. All the guys had something to celebrate and a good time was had by all. We will miss him. RIP AC

  4. Lisa Alkana says:

    I had the pleasure of knowing AC during the too short time I worked at Paramount. Two older gentlemen I’d met back in Oklahoma had worked with him in the mailroom. When I introduced myself and mentioned their names, he clearly remembered them. I never wanted to bother him, but he was always more than willing to talk to me about all my favorites: Ginger Rogers (who I got to know), Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, and others. I saw him at several events after I left the studio, and he always wanted to know how I was. He knew everything and everybody. His passing leaves a huge hole in the fabric of Hollywood. Farewell, AC. You were a gentleman and a scholar.

  5. Larry A. says:

    I just had spoken with AC about two months ago and we had looked forward to lunch after he was on the mend a feeling better. Through the years I’ve only known AC to be nothing but a true gentleman. Prayers for the family and AC soul RIP

  6. Carrie Stewart Nolan says:

    I’m so sad to hear of A.C.’s passing. My father worked at Paramount for many years with A.C. and I got to know him through my dad. He’d visit the sets, my dad was a Director, and he was always the most sweet and friendly man, I just adored him. When I began working in the industry, I got to know him in a more professional way, and he was always wonderful and helpful to me, never asking anything in return, he just had a big heart. He will be missed, but I’m so grateful I got to know such an amazing man.

  7. Robert Litman says:

    One of the most gracious and generous people I ever had the pleasure of knowing during my 26 years with Paramount. Some of my most enjoyable moments were those spent in his office when he would share wonderful stories of old Hollywood days. He knew everyone. I was on the Paramount lot 3 years ago visiting friends over coffee outside of the company store when he approached me with “How wonderful to run into you, Bob. How have you been?” He remembered everyone’s name. He was one of a kind. A true gentleman and will be sorely missed.

  8. A consummate gentleman, always impeccably dressed, and the only man who actually smelled good wearing cologne! Plus, he possessed the most amazing memory and gracious manners.

  9. David Bailey says:

    Truly a most remarkable man

  10. Orlando j Chongo says:

    The most loving & generous human that I have known in my yrs in the film bizz will miss him very dearly may he rest in peace I do know that he went to heaven did love him very much a great friend of mine

  11. Mark Dvornik says:

    A.C. Lyles was for many a link to the golden years of tinsel town, a man who was impeccably dressed with tailored-made suits and ferragamo shoes, friendly to all, a heart that was shaped like the Paramount mountain with a glint in his eye as he said hello to strangers welcomed to the lot. A.C. had an uncanny ability to recall details from any era and was flawless in his memory. He loved Paramount and Hollywood with a passion uncontested! When I started on the lot he was like my grandfather, and once you were in A.C.’s memory he never forgot you. A.C. Many years ago, I was in his office and his assistant at the time recanted how A.C. had a Make A Wish child in his office with his parents. The boy exclaimed after he saw a picture of his friend on the wall that he had written Ronald Reagan when he was in office but he did not write back. A.C. called Ronald Reagan told him that story and a few minutes later Ronald Reagan called in to talk to the boy. A story that only his assistant told me and I never heard A.C. tell that in person. To me that was the measure of the man who truly cared about others around him. I will miss you my friend. Mark Dvornik

  12. Lou DiGiusto says:

    AC visited hometown Jacksonville- as Chair of Film Commission I hosted him- remember sitting in Dr. Frank Slaughter’s living room (prolific 1950’s screenwriter) hearing AC and Frank swap Hollywood tales of the 50’s… Also talked to Jean Peters (former Mrs Howard Hughes) she was an AC fan… Also worked with James Whitmore another AC fan… Everyone in show biz knew AC.

  13. Don Dunn says:

    I met A.C. Lyles in 2011 while Producing “Supah Ninjas” at Paramount. It was my first television series. I had heard about Lyles legend, and looked at his picture in the kiosk near the studio store almost daily for inspiration, and it was a goal of mine to meet him. About mid season I was walking back from lunch with my production team and I spotted him walking down Marathon. I excused myself and walked up to him and introduced myself. His eyes lit up and he took my hand grasping it tight, like a father would his child and walked with me toward my offices in the old Desi-Lu part of the studio. He was genuinely interested in my show, and told me about how Adolf Zukor had hired him and how he introduced him to his best friend, actor Ronald Reagan. He also told be that he had told Ronnie that he would be the President some day. When that day came Reagan made him the ambassador to the world for the motion picture industry and he spend the next 8 years traveling the world in Airforce 1. He then showed me his Presidential cufflinks given to him by the former President which he wore daily. He told me to drop by his office anytime to chat but I never got to because of my heavy production schedule. I walked away from that conversation with a magical feeling like I had bridged a century of film history and was now maybe part of the last of a new generation of filmmakers that would have had contact with old Hollywood. Thank you A.C.!

  14. A dear and generous man , who I had the pleasure of knowing over thirty years. He was always there to lend a helping hand in realizing my goals or to talk about the old days with the Luminaries that came into his offices at Paramount. He will be missed. Hollywood has lost one of their brightest stars.

  15. Jeffrey Kauffman says:

    He was sharp as a tack when I interviewed him a couple of years ago about Paramount star Frances Farmer. He had an almost picayune memory of her and that era.

  16. A dear dear friend and almost a father figure to the late Fred Travalena who could never get enough of the AC Story Telling. My heart goes out to his most wonderful wife, Martha

  17. Paul Wolcott says:

    A.C. Lyles was one of the last of an era in Hollywood that we will not see again. He was a gentleman and had an encyclopedic memory of the industry. One of the kindest people that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

  18. Spike says:

    A charming man. Definitely, Mr. Paramount. Take a quick rest, A.C., and then get back in the game and make some more movies!

  19. A.C. Lyles also appeared in the documentary “Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words” (2011) by Yunah Hong. I saw that film at a public presentation at which Ms. Hong did a Q&A afterwards and she told the story of how she managed to get Mr. Lyles to do the interview. (Sorry to say I don’t remember the details.) He was the only one still alive who had worked with Anna May Wong at Paramount in the 1930s. I have the documentary so I need to see it again to hear what he has to say about Ms. Wong.

    I saw some of Lyles’ westerns in theaters when I was a kid. It was always a thrill to see them because there were so many great old stars in them. I could see Lon Chaney Jr. on TV in THE WOLF MAN and then go to the movies in 1968 to see him in BUCKSKIN. The Hollywood studio system was dying out, but A.C. Lyles kept it going a little longer and I’ll always be grateful to him for that.

  20. EK says:

    A great man and ambassador for Paramount and Hollywood at large. His “programmers” were actually pretty nifty oaters, better than a lot of the low-budget stuff churned out by others subsequently, especially during the video era. A fine, accessible and talented execs but, most of all, a true gentleman who had time for everyone regardless of one’s station in the entertainment universe. Started humbly and stayed humble all of his life and was deservedly revered by all who had the good fortune to know him. His like will never be duplicated, especially in the high stakes, super ego world of today.

  21. Cherie says:

    Dearest A. C,

    We were lucky to have you and now our time has unfortunately come to an end.
    Know you are loved and sorely missed.
    We shall neither forget you nor
    your famous spirit which encourages us
    and continues to enlighten our path!

    Sincerely,

    Sherri “Cherie” Paysinger
    Film and TV Actress
    Entertainment Reporter

  22. Jim says:

    “A.C. Lyles, whose association with Paramount began when he was 10 years old, died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 95.”

    Anybody wanna be 10, again?

  23. Jim says:

    Mr. Entertainment Business!
    Mr. Hollywood!
    Mr. Friend to everyone!

  24. Paramount Employee says:

    After seventy-five years, Paramount gave him a card that allows him 10% off everything sold at the studio store (excluding Blu-rays).

  25. rfk says:

    Longtime employee is long.

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