Pandro S Berman

by Jon Hopwood

Biography of producer Pandro Berman, with a link to one of his movies.


Father's Little Dividend (1951) comedy Added 2 Dec 2010
    starring Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, Elizabeth Taylor
    also starring Don Taylor, Billie Burke, Moroni Olsen, Richard Rober
    produced by Pandro S Berman
    directed by Vincente Minnelli
Plot: The same cast who appeared in the earlier Father of the Bride, reappear in this sequel.  Spencer Tracy as the father of the newly wed Elizabeth Taylor, must now face the prospect of becoming a grandfather.  And the two grandfathers and the two grandmothers bicker over various things related to this, their first grandchild.

The below Knol was written by Jon Hopwood
It is being distributed here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
As part of the Jon Hopwood Recovery Project

Pandro S. Berman was born on March 28, 1905 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of a future movie industry executive Harry M. Berman. By the time he retired in 1970, he had produced over 100 movies, including six Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, and helped develop or revive the careers of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Taylor and Lana Turner. Berman entered the movie industry at the age of 18 after graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City, apprenticing at Unversal Studios, where his father was general manager. He learned the craft of motion pictures by working as an assistant director to such top directors as Tod Browning.

After his apprenticeship at Universal in the 1920s, he moved on to become the chief film editor at the Film Booking Office (FBO), which was bought by Joseph P. Kennedy in 1925 and later merged with his Keith-Orpheum theater chain to form the nucleus of the new major studio R.K.O.-Radio Pictures in 1929. (The studio acquired sound technology from David Sarnoff's Radio Corp. Of America, necessary to produce talkies.) He began working at R.K.O. as an assistant to producers William LeBaron and Charles R Rogers, and later David O. Selznick, whom he would eventually replace as the studio's resident "Boy Genius." In 1931, Berman produced his first film at R.K.O., the gangster movie Bad Company (1931). Berman succeeded Selznick as RKO's most important producer on the lot, producing Katharine Hepburn's third film, Morning Glory (1933), which won her her first Best Actress Academy Award. In all, Berman would produced 14 films with Hepburn. He also projected a Warner's contract play to stardom when he borrowed `Bette Davis' for Of Human Bondage (1934). That same year, he won his first Best Picture Oscar nod with The Gay Divorcee, the first of eight Astaire-Rogers vehicles he would produce at R.K.O. Another Astaire-Rogers musical, Top Hat (1935), received a Best Picture nod the following year, as did the Hepburn movie Alice Adams). Berman was adept at balancing lush production values with the exigencies of the narrative drive.

In 1937, he was promoted chief of all studio production at R.K.O.., from which post he signed a distribution agreement with Walt Disney for its features beginning with the smash hit Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). He teamed Hepburn and Rogers in Stage Door (1937), which won him his fourth Best Picture Oscar nomination.

R.K.O. had been a money-making operation for Joe Kennedy, who bailed out soon after putting the studio together. The studio never had a true studio boss like Louis B. Mayer at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Jack L. Warner at Warner Bros., or Harry Cohn at Columbia. The ownership of the studio changed hands many times, and Berman was often cut out of the decision-making loop even though he was studio boss, something that would be unheard of at the other majors. In 1940, he accepted Louis B. Mayer's offer to become one of the producers that were part of his "college of cardinals". He would remain in Culver City for 25 years, where his professionalism thrived in what was considered the world's premier studio, with with enormous capital in terms of both finance and the human beings who made and starred in the films During most of his career at M.G.M., Berman produced A-list star vehicles, including prestigious literary adaptations and period pictures like had produced at R.K.O.

He produced five pictures starring Lana Turner, including his first M.G.M. production, the lavish Ziegfeld Girl (1941), which boosted Turner's star farther into the heaven's. He also played a key role in the development of Elizabeth Taylor's career, including National Velvet (1944) and her crossover to adult roles with Father of the Bride (1950), which netted him his fifth Best Picture nomination. (A pre-"Le scandale" Liz won her first Best Actress first Oscar in the soap-opera Butterfield 8 (1960, which he produced.) Berman's The Three Musketeers (1948) opened up a new era of swashbucklers at M.G.M., which gave Robert Taylor career a great boost, starring in such Berman-produced action adventure flicks as Ivanhoe (1952), which co-starred Liz Taylor and brought Berman his sixth and last Oscar nod for Best Picture. Berman made Stewart Granger a star in the action adventure genre with such movies as The Prisoner of Zenda (1952).

Pandro Berman also produced two seminal "rock n' roll-era films, The Blackboard Jungle (1955), a social drama about juvenile delinquency, and the Elvis Presley bombshell Jailhouse Rock (1957), the film that launched the King of Rock n' Roll's career in motion picture star. By the 1960s, Berman was producing prestigious pictures on a smaller scale, such as an adaptation of Tennessee Williams's play Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) and A Patch of Blue (1965). Ed Begley and Shelley Winters won best supporting actor Oscars for Bird and Blue, respectively.

Berman left 1965, and eventually signed on with 20th Century-Fox in two years later, but he was not a success at his new studio. He produced George Cukor's film Justine (1969), and though they had worked together on and off for 27 years, the movie was a critical and box office failure. Berman's last production was a minor comedy starring Elliott Gould, Move (1970), after which he retired

When he was young executive at R.K.O., he was often compared to M.G.M.'s resident boy genius, Irving Thalberg. In 1977, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences awarded Berman with the highest award possible for a producer, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.

Pandro S. Berman died on July 13, 1996. He was 91 years old.

Wjhonson's Knols - Total Pageviews - Independent Counter joomla stats