Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Producer A. C. Lyles R.I.P.

A. C. Lyles, who had an incredibly long career with Paramount and produced a number of Westerns, died 27 September 2013 at the age of 95.

Arthur Craddock Lyles was born in Jacksonville, Florida on 17 May 1918. He was only ten years old when his association with Paramount began, handing out circulars for the Paramount Theatre in Jacksonville. He eventually became an usher at the theatre, a position he held for nearly ten years. When he was 14 years old Paramount head Adolph Zukor visited and talked with the young usher. Young Mr. Lyles begged Mr. Zukor to take him with him to Hollywood. Mr. Zukor advised him to finish high school and thereafter the two of them corresponded through letters sent weekly. After he graduated high school, at age 18, A. C. Lyles went to Hollywood, where Adolph Zukor hired him to work in the mailroom.

Eventually A.C. Lyles worked his way up to Paramount's department. From there it was only a matter of time before he handled Paramount's advertising as well. He eventually moved into production, serving as an assistant to producer Edward Dmytryk  on The Mountain (1956).  In 1957 he produced his first film, the crime movie Short Cut to Hell. He also served as an associate producer for a few episodes of the TV show Rawhide.  In 1960 he produced the drama Raymie.

Starting with The Young and the Brave in 1963, A. C. Lyles began producing a number of low budget Westerns for Paramount. These Westerns generally featured such veteran stars as  Dana Andrews, Bruce Cabot, Rory Calhoun, Yvonne De Carlo, and Dale Robertson. The films were shot in only about 10 days and generally had budgets of only $500,000.  All of them made a profit. Among the Westerns A. C. Lyles produced were Law of the Lawless (1964), Black Spurs (1965), Apache Uprising (1965), Johnny Reno (1966), Waco (1966), Fort Utah (1967), Arizona Bushwhackers (1968), and Buckskin (1968).

A. C. Lyles left Paramount for a brief time in the Seventies during which time he formed his own production company and produced the notorious killer rabbit film Night of the Lepus (1972). He would return to Paramount where he produced the television movies The Last Day (1975) and Flight to Holocaust (1977), as well as the TV series Here's Boomer. With Paramount's television division he also worked on  ABC Afterschool Specials, the CBS Festival of Lively Arts for Young People,  and NBC Special Treat. He would later serve as a consulting producer on the HBO TV show Deadwood.

In 1990 he appeared in a bit part in The Hunt for Red October. As Paramount's unofficial historian and goodwill ambassador, he had appeared in numerous documentaries over the years. 

It is quite possible that A. C. Lyles was associated with Paramount for more years than any other person employed by the studio. At any rate, there are not many people whose association with a major studio goes back to when he was 10! His long career with Paramount may well be chalked up to the fact that A. C. Lyles was a rarity in Hollywood--someone who was liked by very nearly everyone. He was known for have a great sense of humour and a kind word for everyone.  Reportedly he almost never forgot a person's name. Quite simply, he was an utter gentleman, the kind that was rare in the Golden Age of Hollywood and may be even rarer now.

Most of the Western programmers A. C. Lyles produced in the Sixties would not be considered classics, although nearly all of them were enjoyable and all of them made a profit. Indeed, they would continue to air on television for decades. What is more they gave work to beloved actors who were seen too rarely in films in the Sixties, such as Rory Calhoun, Linda Darnell, and Dana Andrews. The Westerns Mr. Lyles produced may not be great cinema, but nearly all of them were good films. As a man who loved show business and was in turn loved by those who were in the business, there can be no doubt that A. C. Lyles will be remembered for years to come.

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