Christian Ferry, formerly president of Les Films Marianne, the French film production subsid of Paramount Pictures, died in Paris on April 21 of pancreatic cancer. He was 80.
Under his leadership, Marianne produced many notable, commercial and award-winning films in France by such directors as Louis Malle, Costa-Gavras, Bertrand Blier and Claude Sautet.
During a career spanning five decades, Ferry spent some time working in the U.S., exec producing the 1976 film version of “King Kong,” starring Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges, and 1985’s “Red Sonja,” with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Ferry entered France’s Ecole Normal Superieure, the university attended by Jean-Paul Sartre and Louis Pasteur, but left to start working in the movies, spurred by his mother, French film publicist Odette Ferry. During his career in film production he was an actor, transportation coordinator, location manager, production manager, assistant director, producer and studio exec.
Initially he was an actor, appearing in Yves Allegret’s “Une si jolie petite plage” (“Such a Pretty Beach”) and H.G. Cluzot’s “Manon.” He was transportation coordinator on several pics including Howard Hawks’ “Land of the Pharaohs” and Robert Pirosh’s “Valley of the Kings.” He was first a.d. on Billy Wilder’s “Irma La Douce,” location manager on Wilder’s “Love in the Afternoon” and on Stanley Donen’s “The Nun’s Story” and production supervisor on Donen’s “Two for the Road.”
In the early 1960s, Darryl F. Zanuck hired Ferry as the production manager on such films as “Crack in the Mirror,” “The Big Gamble” and “The Longest Day.” Zanuck personally involved him in 20th Century Fox’s “Cleopatra” and selected Ferry to produce “The Blue Max,” starring James Mason, George Peppard and Ursula Andress, as well as “Rapture,” starring Dean Stockwell. In 1969 Ferry produced Philippe de Broca’s “Give Her the Moon” (“Les Caprices de Marie”) for United Artists.
In 1970, Charles Bluhdorn, chairman of Gulf+Western, the owner of Paramount Pictures, established Les Films Marianne and appointed Ferry as head of production. Under Ferry such films as “Murmur of the Heart” (“Souffle au coeur”) and “Lacombe Lucien,” both directed by Malle; “Cesar and Rosalie,” directed by Sautet; “Going Places” (“Les Valseuses”), directed by Blier; “The Confession,” from Costa-Gavras; “Life Size” (“Le Poupee”), directed by Luis Garcia Berlanga; and “Borsalino,” directed by Jacques Deray, were produced by Marianne.
Ferry oversaw development of the screenplay for Bernard Bertolucci’s “The Last Tango in Paris,” ultimately made at United Artists.
In the 1970s, Ferry moved to the U.S. and worked directly for Charles Bluhdorn at Gulf+Western as special adviser to the chairman.
Marin Karmitz, founder and CEO of France’s MK2, credited Ferry with bringing Malle’s “Au revoir les enfants” to his company. Ferry was a production consultant on the film.
Ferry is survived by his wife, Basha; son Michel, a filmmaker; daughter Emannuelle; and two grandchildren.