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Producer Stanley Chase

Producer Stanley Chase's career spans Broadway, television and movies.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Chase enlisted in the Navy at age 17 to fight in World War II. He graduated from New York University and pursued graduate study in drama at Columbia. He then went to work as a messenger for CBS Television.

His first success as a producer came at age 25 with an off-Broadway production of Kurt Weill - Berthold Brecht's The Threepenny Opera which eventually ran almost seven years in the same theater and earned a 40-fold return. About 500 actors at different times appeared in the production including Leonard Nimoy, Ed Asner, Jerry Stiller, Jerry Orbach, Bea Arthur, Carroll O'Connor, John Astin, and Lotte Lenya (Weill's widow).

In his late 20s, Chase produced three Broadway plays: Graham Greene's The Potting Shed (starring Dame Sybil Thorndyke, Robert Fleming, Carol Lynley), Eugene O'Neal's A Moon For The Misbegotten (Wendy Hiller, Cyril Cusack), and William Saroyan's The Cave Dwellars (Wayne Morris)."

At this time, Stanley met and married Dorothy Rice, a model who appeared in such magazines as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Esquire.

In 1963, while at United Artists, Chase created with Mel Brooks the ABC series pilot Inside Danny Baker. Later, at ABC TV, Stanley worked with Al Capp and Woody Allen.

Mel Brooks lived with Chase in Manhattan in 1965 where Brooks wrote the movie The Producers. "Mel had a Jaguar Mark IX at the time and we made a deal in Hollywood," Chase told me 1/25/02 at his home in West LA. "He could stay at my place in Manhattan if I could have his Jaguar.

"Most comedy shows (such as Sid Caesar's Show of Shows) at that time weren't written so much as dictated. The writers would sit around and someone would take it down. Mel would sometimes call his secretary as late as 3AM and she'd come over and take down his schtick."

Chase moved to Los Angeles in 1966 to work for Universal. He produced the anthology series Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater.

In 1968, he produced the movie The Hell With Heroes starring Rod Taylor, Claudia Cardinale and Harry Guardino.

Chase's later movie credits include 1969's Colossus: The Forbin Project, 1975's (TV) Fear On Trial, 1979's (TV) An American Christmas Carol, 1980's (TV) The Courage of Kavik, the Wolf Dog, 1983's (TV) Grace Kelly, 1984's (TV) The Guardian, 1989's Mack the Knife.

"Movie sets often take on the mood of the script," said Chase. "Happy scripts often create happy feelings. It's the nature of the material. When you deal with tragic subjects, you're not going to act in a jocular way. The movie about Princess Grace, for instance, was about a fairytale life and making it was a happy experience."

Luke: "Which production has the most meaning for you?"

Stanley: "Colossus: The Forbin Project. It was way ahead of its time."

"An unsung masterpiece," writes a reviewer on Imdb.com. "Eric Braeden is brilliant and matched action for action with the entire cast in low-key masterpiece about dangers of unchecked scientific advances. Cold War atmosphere is captured perfectly and the brittle dialogue is delivered to perfection. And sargent's direction matches script and performances in being understated yet uncompromising -- surprising me at every turn."

Stanley: "I bought the rights to the novel [by D.F. Jones] with my own funds. Like Orson Welles with Citizen Kane, art director John Lloyd used the studio facilities for two months before we shot. I've got all the set illustrations downstairs. James Bridges wrote the script. He went on to write and direct The Paper Chase, The China Syndrome and Urban Cowboy.

"We trucked in from the Control Data company in Minnessota about $10 million worth of computer equipment. We shot on the largest stage at Universal. Today you can get as much computing power from a laptop than we could from all the massive equipment. Many pictures were influenced by Colossus, such as War Games [1984] and [1984's] The Terminator. Director James Cameron says Colossus is one of his favorite films.

"Eric Braeden's real name is Hans Gudegast. He was the German general in [1966's] The Rat Patrol. He's now a big star on the daytime soap The Bold and the Beautiful. The studio insisted that he take a Hollywood name like Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson, and Tony Curtis. He balked at first but came around.

"A young kid kept sneaking on to the closed set of Colossus. We needed guards to protect the equipment. He was asked to leave but my wife insisted that he be allowed to stay. The kid was Steven Spieldberg.

Luke: "Tell me about your 1983 Grace Kelly movie."

Stanley: "I was working on a John Belushi movie, Sweet Deception, for Paramount. And in pre-production, John died of a drug overdose.

"I had some heat on me at the time. I negotiated with Bernie Brillstein and Ron Meyer for talent. Michael Ovitz represented director Jay Sandrich and me.

"Jay, who directed the pilot for the Mary Tyler Moore show, flew to New York to meet Belushi. And John took him to a steam bath. They got naked and discussed the movie.

"Then we went into Michael Eisner's office, with his friend of the time, Michael Ovitz, and made the deal. Brillstein, because he was the manager for John Belushi, automatically became the executive producer of the movie, not unlike today.

"John once came by the studio commissary and asked me for money. I gave him a $100. I realized after his death that he wanted it for drugs."

Luke: "Did you read Bob Woodward's book on Belushi, Wired?"

Stanley: "Yes. I refused to talk to Woodward. He called many times. My attorney told me not to talk to him. 'You're never a hero.' I wish now that I had talked to Woodward. He's a great reporter. And I had a lot to say.

"The day after Belushi died, I walked into my office at Paramount, my secretary said, 'John Belushi died.' And I said, 'that's not something to joke about.' I didn't realize it was true."

Luke: "I thought the book was a powerful indictment of drugs in Hollywood."

Stanley: "No question.

"John would call me many times, either at home or at the office, to talk about the screenplay. Or just to talk. He called me two nights before he died."

Luke: "The early '80s were a go-go time for drug use in Hollywood."

Stanley: "I would go to some parties and occassionally people would have coke stains on their suits."

Luke: "Did it disrupt production?"

Stanley: "Not that I know of. Not mine. I don't think it necessarily disrupts productions when people use drugs. Musicians and actors and others use it all the time and they do their jobs. Sometimes people need that support. It may be only chemical but it is still support. And they pay for it later."

Luke: "I've never even smoked marijuana in my life."

Stanley: "Well, I can't say that I haven't done that. I've never bought it. But you're around people who do it."

Luke: "But I'm so innocent, I don't even realize most of the time..."

Stanley: "I wasn't aware of Belushi being on drugs until I read about it after his death. I didn't understand the symptoms and the changes in mood. He did have one thing. He used to work out with a trainer every day. He was trying to lose weight to be in shape for the movie. And after working out, I noticed his pallor was different. He was ashen. And in hindsight, I thought, 'oh, that's why he looked like that.' It's easy after you hear about it. It's like 9/11. Why didn't we do anything?"

Luke: "Why do you think nobody said, 'John, you've got to get help'?"

Stanley: "I didn't know he needed help."

Luke: "Didn't anyone know?"

Stanley: "I don't want to mention names. You can't help someone unless they really want to help themselves."

"It took me a dozen years to get Threepenny Opera financed as a movie - 1989's Mack the Knife, directed by Menahem Golan. I've never met anybody more in love with movies and theater than Menahem.

"Dino Laurentiis was interested at one point. He wanted Ingmar Bergman to direct. I didn't want to do it as an art film. I wanted Bob Fosse or Sydney Pollack to direct. Then one day I got a call from Menahem Golan. And my option on the property was running out. Menahem wanted to take over the project. He wanted all the credit. He cast Raul Julia, Roger Daltrey, Richard Harris, and Julie Walters.

"When Golan came back from Hungary, he had a ton of film. It was endless. He insisted that I cut it. The editor and I spent three months editing it. Menahem basically reproduced the play. At the time, Menahem's company Cannon was on the rocks and they had to move out of their big building."

Luke: "How did you feel about the final movie?"

Stanley: "Well, all I did was take what was there. I would've cinematized it. Menahem thought it would win an Academy Award."

Stanley loves poker, and he played it with Syndey Poitier, Mel Brooks, Doc Simon, Dan Melnick and other showbiz types. "The winning essence of poker - it's not in the hands you play, but it's in the hands you stay out of. As the song says, 'You've got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them'."

Chase has been married to Dorothy Rice, model, actress and painter, for 40 years. "She's a wonderful lady. My father and mother were married all my life. I've never known any other way."

Stanley was raised in a moderately observant Jewish home "but I became interested in books, movies and drama. I'm not religious. I'm culturally Jewish. "

Luke: "And Dorothy is Jewish too?"

Stanley: "Kinda. Her mother changed religion a couple of times. I think she died a Methodist."

Near the end of our interview, Mrs. Chase walked in after a pilates workout. She still looked great. She's published five books of her paintings: Los Angeles With Love, Israel With Love, Manhattan With Love, Beverly Hills With Love and Las Vegas With Love.