A Hal B. Wallis Production

Just some very brief jottings on producer Hal B. Wallis (Aaron Blum Wolowicz, 1898-1986).

Wallis’s rapid rise in the movie business was the very definition of what it means to get in on the ground floor. He’d started out managing a local cinema for the Warner Brothers chain in the silent days. In 1923 he was hired for the publicity department of the studio. This was his stepping stone to actually producing movies himself. In 1927 he married the great silent comedienne Louise Fazenda, his life partner for 35 years. He was promoted to a supervisory position at Warners, in addition to producing his own pet projects. He was at the studio throughout those halcyon years of the 1930s and early 1940s, with his hand on the helm of too many classic pictures to name, literally scores of them, starring the likes of Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and the whole dang Warner Bros stock company.

Wallis cut his ties with Warners in 1944 after winning an Oscar for Casablanca, and being deprived by them of accepting the award for its production, as was customary. He then began to produce pictures independently, although he had a special relationship with Paramount for many years, during which he was associated with the comedies of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (and later Lewis solo), and the musicals of Elvis Presley. He also produced numerous westerns late in his career, notably late John Wayne pictures such as The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), True Grit (1969) and Rooster Cogburn (1975), his last. Fazenda passed away in 1962. Martha Hyer became his second wife in 1966.

For more on classic comedy and early cinema read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.