Henry Rogers, the legendary Hollywood publicist who co-founded the firm Rogers & Cowan, died April 28 at his home after a lengthy illness. He was 82.
In a career spanning six decades, Rogers helped turn the public relations business into a respectable craft. He advised motion pic greats in their personal and business lives as well as working on strategies with major American corporations.
He handled such stars as Audrey Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, Shirley MacLaine, Joan Crawford, Rex Harrison and Gary Cooper. He is widely credited with making a household name of Rita Hayworth in the 1940s.
Rogers’ firm also repped Paul Newman, Paul McCartney, Sylvester Stallone, Nick Nolte, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Tony Bennett, Danny Kaye, Cary Grant, Sammy Davis Jr. and Elizabeth Taylor. Corporate clients included Ford Motor Company, Ralston Purina, Procter & Gamble, Jockey International and AT& T.
To his colleagues and clients, Rogers was known as an “elegant man” who brought respectability and grace to the PR discipline.
“He was a giant,” said longtime friend and partner Warren Cowan. “What he did most of all was set ethical standards for our profession. He had instincts and very knowing advice.
“When I started with Henry in the business, people were called press agents and flacks. He made a business out of the business. He gave it respectability. He changed the notation to public relations.”
In 1945, Rogers was the first public relations rep to create a full-scale Oscar campaign blitz, helping Joan Crawford take home the best actress statue. The campaign set a pattern followed by studios and thesps for the next 50 years.
Rogers began his career at age 21, starting a small publicity firm in 1935 with $500 borrowed from his father. The company quickly took off and in 1950, with Cowan, he formed Rogers & Cowan, which ultimately grew into one of the world’s largest public relations agencies.
Rogers and Cowan sold the business in 1991 and Rogers retired. Cowan stayed on as chairman for a couple of years then formed a new company, Warren Cowan & Associates.
Rogers was a published author of four books, including “Walking the Tightrope” (about the PR business), “The One-Hat Solution,” “Rogers’ Rules for Businesswomen” and “Rogers’ Rules for Success.”
He was actively involved in community and civic affairs, serving on the board of governors of the Los Angeles Music Center from 1976 to 1986 and prexy, chairman and director of the Center Theater Group. He also served two five-year terms on the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and was a trustee of the American Film Institute.
On a national level, he was on the exec committee of the President’s Council for International Youth Exchange, on the board of the Center for Democracy, on the advisory committee of the American University in Washington D.C. and he was chairman of the private sector public relations committee of the U.S. Information Agency.
Survivors include his wife of 58 years Rosalind, a son Ron, a daughter Marcia, two grandchildren and two sisters.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the John Wayne Cancer Institute, 1328 22nd. St., Santa Monica, C A 90404.