Andrew J. Kuehn, director-producer and advertising pioneer widely credited with creating the modern motion picture trailer, died of lung cancer Thursday at his home in Laguna Beach. He was 66.
He directed and produced the feature documentary “Get Bruce” (about entertainment writer Bruce Vilanch), which bowed at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. With Michael Feinstein, he recently directed and produced the PBS music docu “The Great American Songbook.”
In the ’80’s, he co-produced “D.O.A,” starring Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, and produced the feature docu “Terror in the Aisles,” hosted by Donald Pleasance. In l969, Kuehn produced “Coming Apart,” starring Rip Torn.
Kuehn’s background as a trailer producer marks his contribution to the motion picture industry. In l968, Kuehn founded Kaleidoscope Films, a prominent movie advertising company for 35 years. Kuehn personally produced campaigns for more than 1,000 features for Hollywood studios including Warner Bros., Fox, Universal, Columbia, Paramount, DreamWorks and MGM.
Creating trusted relationships with leading filmmakers, he conceived campaigns for some of the most important American films of the last 40 years, including “Jaws,” “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial,” “Schindler’s List,” “The Exorcist,” “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” Other outstanding campaigns he worked on included “The Sting,” “Aliens,” “All That Jazz,” “Evita,” “Top Gun,” “Fatal Attraction,” “Back to the Future,” “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Witness.”
Known for innovations
Kuehn introduced then innovative elements of smart writing, strong use of music, special announcers and an innovative style of editing to the cliched genre of studio-produced previews.
In a trade interview Kuehn said, “A trailer has but one goal: to draw audiences out of their houses and into a theater. To do that you have to set up a sense of urgency. In the process of arriving at that forced pace, we advanced the style of editing. We really pushed the envelope in terms of what audiences would accept.”
In l994, Kuehn was honored by the Cannes Lions with a lifetime achievement award.
He was a member of the DGA, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, SAG, AFTRA, the American Film Institute, and served on the board of trustees of the American Cinematheque.
Kuehn was born in Chicago, and at the age of 10 began editing 16mm film using an ice pick and Scotch tape, cutting from a shot of Abbott and Costello driving their car into a haystack to a saloon in a Hopalong Cassidy movie. While a student at the University of Miami, he was introduced to movie trailers by working for a local agency that provided advertising for drive-ins. He headed to New York and landed a job as a writer with National Screen Service, the only provider of trailers at the time.
Two years and 100 trailers later, he had honed his skills and became head of MGM’s department of audiovisual advertising, promotion and publicity. After five years at MGM where he contributed to the success of such important films such as “Doctor Zhivago,” “Night of the Iguana,” and “Blowup,” Kuehn decided to venture out on his own.
His professional archives will be donated to UCLA School of Film. A memorial will be announced.
He is survived by his longtime partner Will Gorges, a sister and a niece.