Longtime talent agent and producer Sam Jaffe, whose career stretched back to the 1930s when his clients included such stalwarts as Humphrey Bogart, died Monday of natural causes in Los Angeles. He was 98.
In addition to being one of Hollywood’s top agents during the ’30s and ’40s, Jaffe produced several notable films, including 1944’s “The Fighting Sullivans” helmed by Lloyd Bacon (whom Jaffe represented at the time) and “Born Free” (1966).
Born May 21, 1901 in New York’s Harlem, Jaffe entered the movie business during the 1920s as an office boy at the Paramount-Famous Players-Lasky Co. when it was run by his brother-in-law, B.P. Schulberg.
He quickly moved up the ranks and eventually became executive in charge of physical production. His responsibilities included supervising upwards of 52 films a year helmed by the likes of Ernst Lubitsch, Josef Von Sternberg and Rouben Mamoulian. He also helped negotiate the deal for the studio’s new location on Melrose Ave.
In the early ’30s, he briefly worked for Harry Cohn at Columbia Pictures before opening the Jaffe Agency during the mid 1930s.
His client roster included David Niven, Richard Burton, Raoul Walsh, Fritz Lang, Zero Mostel, Donald O’Connor, Frederick March, Kathryn Grayson, Robert Wise, Rouben Mamoulian, Mark Robson, Jennifer Jones, Lauren Bacall and Stanley Kubrick.
The agency suffered during the McCarthy era when many of clients were were ostracized by HUAC. Jaffe once said that it was true, many of his clients were Communists and that they were attracted to him because of his liberalism. During the the mid-1950s Jaffe’s agency amalgamated with Charles Feldman’s Famous Artists Agency.
On the cultural side, he was known in Hollywood for putting together an imposing collection of impressionist art.
In 1959, he retired from the agency business and relocated to London with Mildred, with whom he was married for 55 years. While in London for 20 years, he produced several films including “Theatre of Blood” and collected art and traveled.
In recent years, Jaffe devoted himself to academics and was the oldest student in UCLA’s Plato Society.
He is survived by three daughters, Naomi, Barbara and Judy, four grandchildren and four great granchildren.