You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Historian and Author Rudy Behlmer Dies at 92

Rudy Behlmer, author of “Memo From David O. Selznick” and nearly a dozen other film-history books, died Friday at his home in Studio City, Calif. He was 92.

Behlmer was among the most widely respected historians of Golden Age Hollywood, in part because of his insistence upon researching “primary source material” and not relying on faulty memories or exaggerated press accounts of the time.

“Memo From David O. Selznick,” which Behlmer edited from thousands of Selznick’s private letters, telegrams and memoranda, was a best seller in 1972. Behlmer first interviewed the “Gone With the Wind” producer for a 1963 article for “Films in Review,” one of dozens of magazine pieces he wrote over the decades.

Other books followed: “Hollywood’s Hollywood: The Movies About the Movies” (with co-author Tony Thomas, 1975), “Inside Warner Bros. 1935-1951” (1985), “Behind the Scenes: The Making Of…” (1989) and “Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck” (1993).

Behlmer’s first book, co-written with fellow film historians Tony Thomas and Clifford McCarty, was “The Films of Errol Flynn” in 1969. An admirer since boyhood of the actor, he later edited and annotated two screenplays for classic Flynn films, “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and “The Sea Hawk,” as part of the University of Wisconsin Press’s series of published scripts.

His last books were also as editor: “W.S. Van Dyke’s Journal: White Shadows in the South Seas, 1927-28 and Other Van Dyke on Van Dyke” (1996), “Henry Hathaway: A Directors Guild Oral History” (with Polly Platt, 2001) and “Shoot the Rehearsal! Behind the Scenes With Assistant Director Reggie Callow” (2010).

His expertise extended to the MGM Tarzan movies, producer-director Merian C. Cooper and “King Kong,” and the music of Golden Age composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner and Miklos Rozsa. His DVD commentary tracks on such classics as “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Casablanca,” “12 O’Clock High,” “Objective: Burma!” and “How the West Was Won” were widely praised as definitive.

He also served as editor, music consultant and annotator for the Warner Bros. music set “50 Years of Film Music” in 1973, just one of many film-score albums and CDs for which he penned liner notes.

But essays and journalism were only part of Behlmer’s life. He enjoyed a lively and successful career in television and advertising throughout the 1950s and ’60s. He was stage manager, then staff director and producer, at Los Angeles’ KLAC-TV (now KCOP) from 1950 to 1956, working on such shows as “Liberace,” “Piano Playhouse,” “Mike Roy’s Kitchen,” “Hawthorne,” “Baxter Ward News” and “Cliffie Stone’s Hometown Jamboree.”

He was director on ABC’s “Ray Anthony Show,” featuring the big-band leader and his orchestra, during the 1956-57 season, and served as executive producer and director for KCOP from 1960 to 1963, overseeing various shows including his own “Movies’ Golden Age.”

Behlmer began producing and directing commercials for Grant Advertising from 1957 to 1960, which led to a two-decade career as a vice president at the Hollywood branch of the Chicago-based ad agency Leo Burnett Inc. from 1963 to 1984. He produced dozens of now-classic spots including the “No More Rice Krispies” opera spot for Kellogg’s (declared by Entertainment Weekly as among the top 10 commercials of all time) and others featuring the Pillsbury Doughboy, the lonely Maytag repairman, two spots featuring Buster Keaton, and others.

He was born Oct. 13, 1926, in San Francisco. He served for two years in the Naval Air Corps and, after World War II, was a theater arts major at Los Angeles City College and Pasadena Playhouse College. He later lectured weekly on film topics at California State University at Northridge and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and guest lectured at USC, UCLA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

He was a longtime member of the Directors Guild of America, a charter member of the American Film Institute and served on the board of directors of the Society for the Preservation of Film Music (now the Film Music Society).

He is survived by his wife Stacey, son Curt and daughter-in-law Anna. The family suggests memorial contributions to Guide Dogs for the Blind, P.O. Box 3950, San Rafael, CA 94912-3950, a charitable organization of which Behlmer was a longtime supporter.


Popular on Variety

More Film

  • 'Joker' Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Wins at

    'Joker' Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Wins at Camerimage Film Festival

    “Joker” cinematographer Lawrence Sher’s bid, along with director Todd Phillips, to try something “perhaps even a bit artful” won big Saturday in Torun, Poland as he took the top prize at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival. The Golden Frog for cinematography, along with the audience prize, went to his work filming Joaquin Phoenix in the [...]

  • Roberto Schaefer

    Netflix Image Enhancement Rules Take Cinematographers by Surprise

    A Netflix requirement that cinematographers capture films in HDR, or high dynamic range, has taken many by surprise, filmmakers say, but those at the 27th EnergaCamerimage festival in Poland seem increasingly accepting of the change. DP Roberto Schaefer, whose “Red Sea Diving Resort” screened at the cinematography fest in the historic city of Torun, said [...]

  • Lech Majewski and Josh Hartnett

    Lech Majewski on ‘Valley of the Gods,’ Navaho Mythology, Josh Hartnett, Keir Dullea

    TORUN, Poland – In his latest work, “The Valley of the Gods,” director Lech Majewski explores the ancient mythology of a downtrodden people and the absurd wealth of the world’s richest man in a surreal vision of modern America. The film screened at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival as part of special showcase honoring Majewski, [...]

  • The Red Sea Diving Resort

    Cinematographer Roberto Schaefer on Gideon Raff's Thriller ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’

    TORUN, Poland – While Gideon Raff’s Netflix thriller “The Red Sea Diving Resort” shot largely in South Africa and Namibia, the project was a welcomed opportunity for cinematographer Roberto Schaefer due to his own memorable travels through Ethiopia. The film, which screened in the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival’s Contemporary World Cinema section, is loosely based [...]

  • Film director and scriptwriter Vojtech Jasny

    Vojtech Jasny, Award-Winning Czech Filmmaker, Dies at 93

    Czech filmmaker Vojtech Jasny, director of “All My Good Countrymen,” which won the best director prize at Cannes in 1969, has died. He was 93. According to the Associated Press, Slovacke divadlo, a theatre he frequently visited, said that Jasny died Friday, and a family representative confirmed his death to the CTK news agency. Jasny [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content