Hyams spent more than 40 years at Warners, rising to executive VP of special projects. He worked with Eastwood on all his films from 1971’s “Any Which Way But Loose” through 2004’s “Mystic River” and shepherded the films through film festivals, premieres and awards campaigns.
Eastwood said in a statement, “Joe was an incredibly smart, intuitive and talented executive who played a crucial role in making my movies succeed. More important, he was a great friend and I will miss him.”
Working with stars such as James Dean, Burt Lancaster, Hillary Swank, and Morgan Freeman, Hyams nurtured personal relationships with many of the stars he worked with, and he served as a mentor and advisor to many people.
“To me he was the dean of what he did,” said former Warner Bros. chairman Robert Daly. “Joe definitely marched to his own drum, but he was also a terrific company man. When he was into a movie, he was working with the filmmakers all the way through.”
Former Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairman Rob Friedman, who called Hyams “a mentor and a lifelong friend,” said, “Joe was a lone gun. He was always out front with a film, seeing it through all aspects of not just publicity, but marketing. The department was basically his support staff.”
Hyams was born on the Lower East Side of New York City and served in the Marines during WWII. He started out as a reporter for the New York Daily Mirror, then became a unit publicist at Columbia Pictures. His first assignments were working on the campaigns for “On the Waterfront” and “From Here to Eternity.”
He moved his family to Los Angeles to work for Burt Lancaster’s Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions then returned to New York and worked on “Bus Stop” before starting at Warner Bros. in 1960.
Among the memorable films that Hyams worked on for the studio were “East of Eden,” “My Fair Lady,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Blazing Saddles,” “The Exorcist,” “A Star is Born”, “Woodstock,” “Chariots of Fire,” and “JFK.” He retired from Warner Bros. in 2005.
Recalled Sidney Ganis, former President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, “He was sought out and beloved by artists and management alike. ‘What does Joe think?’ they would ask. Joe had a basic elegance that was completely natural, whether he was in a tuxedo at an opening, his deep tan glowing, or at a senior Warner Bros. management meeting in loafers, no socks, washed out t-shirt and worn jeans, advising and guiding us through the tricky problem of the day.”
Outside of the movie business, he was also a licensed pilot, a scuba diver, a yachtsman, a fly fisherman, and a voracious reader. He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
He is survived by his second wife, Dolores; his children, Nina, Melissa and Robert; his sisters, Janet Katz and Barbara Doyle, his brother, Arthur Hyams, his brother-in-law, Richard Doyle, and sister-in-law, Janet Winkler; and his grandchildren, Michael Jaeggli and Sam Carpenter; as well as his son-in-law, Paul Carpenter. Donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.