×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Agent Freddie Fields dies at 84

Industry vet paved the way for super-agents

Freddie Fields, the powerful and charming talent manager and agent who, along with David Begelman, founded the powerful Creative Management Associates and later became a studio exec and producer, died Tuesday of lung cancer at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 84.

Together with Ted Ashley and Lew Wasserman of MCA, Fields and Begelman were perhaps Hollywood’s first super-agents. Fields was known for his aggressive dealmaking, including negotiating percentages of films’ profits for the stars he represented.

While Fields was married to actress Polly Bergen, his Beverly Hills house was at the center of the town’s social scene, with frequent star-studded parties.

“He had a tremendous instinct for making deals work on both sides. He had close relationships with talent, and he was able to make things happen. He also had an eye for recruiting top agents,” said Jeff Berg, president of International Creative Management, who began working for Fields in 1969.

The roster of clients at CMA, the precursor to ICM, was a virtual who’s who in entertainment of its era.

Fields, Begelman and their other agents (who at various times included Berg, Sue Mengers, Mike Medavoy and Sam Cohn) handled the careers of talent including Judy Garland, Robert Redford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Burt Bacharach and Neil Young.

“He was a real powerhouse agent — he changed the business when he came along. He was a lot of fun, a gentle guy. Almost everyone who worked for him ended up running a studio. If he hadn’t left the agency business, there probably wouldn’t have been a CAA,” Medavoy said.

In a rarity at the time, Fields’ First Artists production company owned the films it produced. Using the deal savvy he learned at MCA, Fields engineered the creation of First Artists with several prominent clients including Streisand, Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman.

“First Artists was the first important artist-based financing company,” Berg said. “He was one of the first to understand the value of the international market, and it was a publicly traded company.”

The idea was for the talent to work within a specific budget fronted by the distributor and then retain a sizeable portion of the profits as well as the film’s negative. About 18 films were produced under the banner, including “A Star Is Born,” “The Getaway” and “Uptown Saturday Night.” Though First Artists lasted only five years, it was a model for future talent-owned production companies.

“We lived through a very exciting time together. He was a very creative thinker. I always enjoyed his company. It’s the end of an era,” Streisand said.

Born in Ferndale, N.Y., Fields was the son of a Catskills resort owner. He quit school at age 17, moving to Miami, where he worked as a bellhop. After a stint in the Coast Guard, he joined the Abbe Greshler agency in 1943; there he worked with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. He was wooed away by MCA in 1946, bringing Lewis and Martin with him, and rose through the ranks to become head of its TV department. He packaged such vaudevillian and radio talents as Phil Silvers, George Burns and Gracie Allen and Jackie Gleason for television.

When MCA divested itself of the agency business, he left to form his own management firm repping such clients as Garland, Henry Fonda and Newman. It was Fields who orchestrated Garland’s triumphal Carnegie Hall concert in 1962.

He started Creative Management Associates in 1962 with Begelman, taking his management clients with him and adding many of the industry’s emerging talents. Over the 12 years of the agency’s existence, they included thesps Al Pacino, Woody Allen, Liza Minnelli and Natalie Wood and young directors like Lucas, Arthur Penn, Mel Brooks, Francis Ford Coppola and Spielberg.

In 1974 he and Begelman sold CMA to Marvin Josephson’s International Famous Agency. The merger created the company that is now ICM, but soon thereafter, Fields left his job as president of the agency for an indie production deal at Paramount Pictures. Begelman went on to head Columbia Pictures until he was toppled by the infamous check-forging scandal.

“I didn’t want to devote my life to the agency business,” Fields told Variety’s VLife magazine in 2003. “The studios were more energized and fun in those days.”

Fields’ producing efforts included Jonathan Demme’s “Citizens Band,” the controversial “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” and Paul Schrader’s “American Gigolo” in 1979. Other credits included “Lipstick,” “Wholly Moses!” and “Victory.”

In the early ’80s Fields was recruited by Begelman, then running MGM/UA, for the top production slot at MGM and then for both MGM and UA. By 1983 he had risen to president and chief operating officer of the MGM Film Co. under Frank Yablans; he remained there until 1984, eventually becoming an independent producer at the studio.

His later productions included “Crimes of the Heart,” with Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek; and “Glory,” with Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman, which won three Oscars. He also produced “American Anthem,” “Poltergeist 2” and “Millennium.”

By the end of the 1980s, Fields moved to television, where he was executive producer of “Naked Hollywood” and “The Montel Williams Show.”

Survivors include his wife of 26 years, Corinna, who was Miss Greece and the winner of the Miss Universe contest; two daughters and a son; three grandchildren; four stepchildren and one step-grandchild.

Services will be held Friday at 2 p.m. at Pierce Brothers in Westwood, Calif.

Donations may be made to SHARE, P.O. Box 1342, Beverly Hills, CA 90213.

More Film

  • UGC Distribution Closes on Mariano Cohn’s

    Ventana Sur: UGC Distribution Closes Market Hit ‘4 x 4’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — UGC Distribution has beaten out all other suitors to clinch what had became by Friday morning the most anticipated deal of this year’s Ventana Sur market: All rights to France on Argentine Mariano Cohn’s “4 x 4,” sold by Latido Films and distributed throughout Argentina by Disney. After mounting speculation about which [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    Film News Roundup: 'Aquaman' Hits $152 Million at International Box Office

    In today’s film news roundup, “Aquaman” has already grossed more than $150 million outside the U.S., Michael Masini joins “Birds of Prey,” and Freestyle buys the documentary “Shamanic Trekker.” BOX OFFICE Warner Bros.’ tentpole “Aquaman” has taken in $152 million overseas in 36 markets, with $135 million of that from China, where it opened on [...]

  • 'Winter's Night' Review: Enigmatic, Offbeat Korean

    Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night'

    There are thousands of films about love’s beginning, and a great many about love’s end. But far fewer deal with a relationship’s late-middle: the spreading, sluggish delta of coupledom when decades of familiarity, if they have not bred contempt, at least threaten irritation. “Winter’s Night,” Jang Woo-jin’s playfully melancholic third feature, after the acclaimed “A [...]

  • Tomasz Kot UTA

    UTA Signs ‘Cold War’ Star Tomasz Kot (EXCLUSIVE)

    UTA has signed “Cold War” star Tomasz Kot. He has appeared in more than 30 films and 26 plays as well as dozens of television series. Most recently, Kot has received award-season buzz for his starring role as Wiktor in Pawel Pawlikowski’s feature “Cold War” for Amazon. The project has earned him a nomination for [...]

  • Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening

    Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening Palm Springs Film Festival

    The 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will open on Jan. 3 with historical drama “All Is True,” starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen. Branagh, who will be in attendance at the opening night screening, directed from Ben Elton’s script about the little-known period in the final years of William Shakespeare. Branagh [...]

  • Actor and Activist Rodney Kageyama Dies

    Actor and Activist Rodney Kageyama Dies at 77

    Actor, activist and influentials member of the Japanese American community, Rodney Kageyama, died in his sleep Dec. 9. He was 77. The SAG member was known for roles in “Karate Kid IV” with Hillary Swank, Ron Howard’s film “Gung Ho” and the spinoff sitcom, and the TV movie “Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes” with Max [...]

  • Most Popular Films 2018: The Best

    9 Holiday Gift Ideas Inspired by This Year's Most Popular Films

    From superheroes to super nannies, 2018 was a year full of memorable characters — and memorable movies. Whether you’re a big film buff, an avid follower of a popular franchise, or have a couple movie fans in your life, here are nine gifts that capture the fun of some of this year’s biggest films. 1. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content