Monday, April 04, 2022

Who is Robert Evans?

When Francis Ford Coppola thanked Robert Evans during THE GODFATHER tribute on this year's infamous Oscarcast a lot of people (including a few of my readers) wondered who that is (or “was” at this point).

Robert Evans was one of the true characters of Hollywood.  Originally an actor, he became a big studio executive at Paramount (where he oversaw THE GODFATHER) and later a producer.  At one time he was married to Ali McGraw (a very beautiful actress if you’re not familiar with her either) but she dumped him for Steve McQueen (the actor, not the current director).

Evans led a larger-than-life lifestyle, had a big mansion, and partied with the best of 'em.  In his later years he had this tan that was, well… orange (a shade not found in nature).  He also wore large sunglasses most of the time.  He still had an office at Paramount when I worked there and I used to see him frequently on the lot.  I would alway said “hello” and he'd say “hello” back as if we knew each other.  I only spoke to him one time and that was to compliment him on his book.

His book.

THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE is his memoir.  His accomplishments are somewhat, er… embellished.  He did not invent electricity or was the first man on the moon.  That's an exaggeration but even if half the stories are true it’s a great window into Hollywood of a different (and arguably better) era.

One thing though — don’t read the book.

LISTEN to it.

Evans does the audiobook and it is HYSTERICAL.   The “tough guy” noir persona he exudes along with the florid content combine to make a laugh-out-loud, drive-off-the-road audio experience.  He also impersonates other people — I just can’t say enough about this juicy audiobook.

So that’s Robert Evans.  You’ll be glad I introduced you. 

42 comments :

VincentP said...

Sorry, Ayn Rand fans, but despite this subject's title, Robert Evans was anything but John Galt. Since Paramount founder Adolph Zukor had a relatively benevolent reputation among classic Hollywood moguls, Evans might be described as the latter-day Harry Cohn (Columbia) or Louis B. Mayer (MGM). He indeed was a fascinating figure.

Cliff Tooth said...

The book was ghost written by the writer of “Basic Instinct”, who said in his own book that “No one in Hollywood knows more about P....y than Evans.”

In his book he just mentions only few actresses names. he got them parts in movies produced by his studio.

Evans always claimed it was he who made Godfather a hit, so both Francis and he fought via telegrams and magazine articles against one another.

Francis won and had him kicked out of Part 2.


He also produced Chinatown.

He was very close to Kissinger.

He had the backing of a powerful lawyer who was close to all these big people ... Kershak or something ....

He was so powerful that when Polanski wanted to observe sabbath or some festival, he got Kirk Douglas to perform the private ceremony at his house for Polanski.

He claims to have nursed Polanski when his wife was killed.

He claims everyone in Hollywood cheated him of milllions, but he has no grudges and loves everyone and is friends with all.

CarolMR said...

I had a crush on Evans back in the day. He was gorgeous.

N. Zakharenko said...

Whilst still an actor, he played Irving Thalberg in a movie - foreshadowing elements of what he was to become.

(From the back row ....Who is Irving Thalberg?)

Lemuel said...

I remember his "The Kid Stays in the Picture" memoir fondly.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak to the audio book, but the DVD of the movie "The Kid Stays in the Picture" is great fun.

Years ago, while working at Paramount, I gave a copy away as part of a Secret Santa package at an office party. The thought was, someone working at Paramount would like to learn about the history of their company. The 24-year old who got it opened it, kinda grimaced and said, "Who's Bob Evans?" She would have much preferred booze. Gen Xers.

Pizzagod said...

His restaurants! His midwestern chain of restaurants!!!!

N. Zakharenko said...

Wow! Part 5 of the 2022 Oscars blog saga.

This has gone from "The Winds Of War" to "War And Remembrance".

Sparks said...

There is a film of the book, have you seen it? Do you have an opinion?

blinky said...

I think Hollywood was a lot more fun, interesting and made way better movies when there were people running the place that were characters. They were people larger than life that had a vision of what they were supposed to be and what they wanted to do.
Now everyone is corporatized. Stars have teams. You can tell who they are, like Carrie underwood or Jennifer Lopez when they win an award, the first thing they do is thank their team.

. said...

“Who’s Evans” was a question from The Slap that slapped me. How is that guy already forgotten?

In Newspapers.com, you can see this theme throughout history. Wildly famous Pop Names of the Day peak and fade while some stay widely known forever. Why did one name endure from Valley Forge, while the rest became Valley Forget?

There was only one Robert Evans. One was quite enough, and I figured he was one of those icons whose fame would forge on.

I wore out that guy’s audiobook cassette. In large heaps, it was both intentionally funny and intentionally funny. Never boring. I knew his recording wasn’t shtick, but how wasn’t that tape shtick? He gave new elevation to the phrase “over the top”.

Millennials are the not-so-secret enemy of History. First to go were our painstaking VHS documentations, then bookstores, then newspapers, antique stores and now Bob Evans. Let’s stop this Say No To The Past cult before they come for our calendars, clocks and trivia games.

Don’t scoff. It’s already happening. They won’t even save our Daylight.

Anonymous said...

he also owned a chain of highly successful sausage restaurants.

BTW- that Kershak was Sidney Korshak, arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood for a quarter century. He's the guy people didn't talk about - but were all afraid of.
He was the lawyer liaison between Hollywood and a group of Chicago gentlemen who had interests in Hollywood and the labor industry.

maxdebryn said...

Robert Evans is being portrayed by Brit actor Matthew Goode in the Paramount Plus series "The Offer," which premieres April 28.

Darwin's Ghost said...

Have you ever seen him without makeup? Horrifying.

Mike Doran said...

In re Robert Evans:

- One of his "starring" movies was The Fiend That Walked the West.
Type-casting ...

- Evans played Irving Thalberg in Man Of A Thousand Faces, James Cagney's Lon Chaney biopic.
Evans thought this was type-casting ...

- In Wag The Dog, Dustin Hoffman's character is clearly based on Robert Evans: the clothes, the chemical tan, and above all else the studied nonchalance ("This is nothing!".

Ralph C. said...

Mr. Show did a sketch based on Evans’ book… sort of.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Bcj14h3jco

maxdebryn said...

The documentary film that has been referenced uses Evans' narration from the audio book. If this information has already been posted, I apologize, unreservedly.

Philly Cinephile said...

Friday question: how, if at all, has your work as a writer informed your directing, and vice versa?

Darwin's Ghost said...

That wasn't me making the comment above, but I'm flattered I have an admirer/imposter.

maxdebryn said...

The Bob Evans who started the "sausage restaurants" was a *completely* different person.

maxdebryn said...

To add to his "oeuvre" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kid_Notorious

D. McEwan said...

"CarolMR said...
I had a crush on Evans back in the day. He was gorgeous."


May I recommend cataract surgery? It did wonders for clearing up my vision.

Ted. said...

I think at least one of the commenters above was joking, but the Bob Evans restaurant chain is named for someone different -- the late Robert Lewis Evans, an "American restaurateur and marketer of pork sausage products." When I was a teenager in the Midwest, our local Bob Evans location was a good place to hang out and shoot the breeze after school. (And I still remember their commercial theme song, "Bob Evans... down on the farm!")

maxdebryn said...

@Ted - As an old guy who used to visit relatives in the Midwest, I can attest that the breakfasts at Bob Evans were spectacular !

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Returning to the recommendations for ABBOTT ELEMENTARY: I'm finding it depressing. It reminds me an awful lot of UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE, which showed the same kinds of struggles back in 1968? or thereabouts. (It was made into a movie starring Sandy Dennis, but Bel Kaufman's original novel was much better.) It would have been nice to think we'd made some progress in supporting schools by now.

wg

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

BTW- that Kershak was Sidney Korshak, arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood for a quarter century. He's the guy people didn't talk about - but were all afraid of.
He was the lawyer liaison between Hollywood and a group of Chicago gentlemen who had interests in Hollywood and the labor industry.


huh, The Outfit's Tom Hagen? that sounds like an interesting story

I always figured Martin Landau's Entourage character Bob Ryan, IIRC an old-school producer who had buckets of money but had lost all his clout in Hollywood, was based on Evans, at least in part.

maxdebryn said...

Two Darwin's Ghosts ? Like the Highlander: there can only be one !

maxdebryn said...

The trailer for "The Offer" - https://youtu.be/iowLzO9-aew

Cheryl Marks said...

First saw him in "The Best of Everything," one of those great 50's melodramas where he played a total cad that got the good girl played by Diane Baker pregnant.

The movie pops up on TCM every once in a while.

Anonymous said...

Sidney Korshak was even more powerful than Tom Hagen because he often determined policy as much as he carried it out for his bosses (the bosses in Chicago respected his opinion). The most powerful studio heads in Hollywood as well as people like Lew Wassermann all paid him obeisance. He could shut down a movie or a TV studio on 24 hour notice.

Darwin's Ghost said...

I know! I am the true Darwin's Ghost.

Charles H Bryan said...

I've listened to the audiobook and it is everything you say and more. Highly recommended, but I don't recommend listening to all of it straight through. I had to listen in segments, but it is wild.

Darwin's Ghost said...

Stop that!

Breadbaker said...

I've read the book. Listened to the audiobook. And seen the documentary. I agree with Ken and others. The audiobook is superb, an unmatchable piece of pure Hollywood. The others are great, too.

maxdebryn said...

I think the second Darwin's Ghost is Topper. I could hear Neil's barking.

Leighton said...

Folks, learn the difference between Gen X, Gen Y (Millennials), and Gen Z. People are grouping them together, bizarrely.

MSOLDN said...

Maybe it’s been pointed out elsewhere above….but the 2002 film documentary version of “The Kid Stays in the Picture”, containing audio clips of Evans doing the audiobook as narration, is also very entertaining. I’ve seen it within the last couple of years on the Sky Documentary channel here in the UK. Also, I just checked out on YouTube Evans’ camp appearance (among a bevy of celebs) in Moby’s 2002 video “We are All Made of Stars”,

maxdebryn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maxdebryn said...

Who knew that Evans played a loony in the cowboy version of "Kiss of Death" ? It was called "The Fiend Who Walked The West," and it looks pretty funny - https://youtu.be/6HpvhW8o0sQ

purplepenquin said...

The movie version of this book has been sitting on my shelf, unwatched, every since I brought home a huge pile of various DVDs from the pawn shop. Gonna have to make it a point to check it out...thanks for clueing me in about it.

Chris Lynch said...

Comedy writer Drew Magary introduced me to Robert Evan’s with his hilarious articles written from the perspective of “Ol’ Evans”. Here’s one he wrote shortly after Liz Taylor passed, entitled “Elizabeth Taylor, As Remembered By Fake Robert Evans”.

Ken would love to get your reaction to this gem: https://deadspin.com/elizabeth-taylor-as-remembered-by-fake-robert-evans-5785018

Roby J said...

One of few wives of Robert Evans was Phyllis George (Miss America 1971, former co-host of CBS Sports’ The NFL Today and Mom of CNN Weekend Newsroom Anchor Pamela Brown). They were married from 1977 to 1978.