Cyrus I. Harvey, founder of distributor Janus Films, which released arthouse pics by foreign directors such as Fellini, Bergman and Kurosawa, died Thursday in Dayville, Conn., of a stroke suffered four days earlier. He was 85.
Founded in 1956, Janus arose from Harvey’s part ownership of the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Mass. He and actor Bryant Haliday had transformed the Brattle from a venue for live theater into a moviehouse that unspooled the sort of art films Harvey had grown to love while in Paris on a Fulbright scholarship.
“Instead of spending two years at the Sorbonne, he spent two years at the cinematheque,” his wife Rebecca told the New York Times.
Harvey and Haliday screened Janus films at the Brattle and at the 55th Street Playhouse in New York. Janus helped introduce U.S. auds to dozens of films now considered masterpieces of world cinema before they sold the company in 1966.
The company still exists as part of the concern that includes the Criterion Collection.
Harvey was a man of many interests, and he also created body and home products retailer Crabtree & Evelyn.
Cyrus Isadore Harvey Jr. was born in Cambridge to Jewish refugee parents. His father was from Lithuania; his mother, who died when her son was a child, was from Poland. Harvey was a navigator in the Army Air Forces at the end of WWII and then graduated from Harvard.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a sister, three daughters and five grandchildren.