Robin French, a talent agent who worked with legends including Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor and later headed production at Paramount Pictures in the late 1970s, has died. His family said he had been in declining health for the past few months and died September 6 in Palm Desert, CA.
“Dad left knowing that we love him so much, and that we are all safe and secure thanks in large part to his fierce devotion to us,” his children said in a statement. “He was so smart, funny, loyal, friendly, grumpy, opinionated and just a one-of-a-kind guy. We will all miss him forever, but feel so lucky that he was our Dad.”
French began his career as an agent at Chartwell, working with his father, Hugh French — a former actor who become an agent whose clients in the 1950s and ’60s included Brando, Taylor and Richard Burton — and Jerry Perenchio.
During his agenting days, the younger French worked with such screen legends as Brando, Taylor, Burton, Montgomery Clift, Jane Fonda, Gene Hackman, Gene Wilder, Ingrid Bergman and Bob Newhart, along with iconic singers Elton John and Johnny Mathis.
Chartwell was acquired by Marvin Josephson in 1971 and was added to International Famous Agency, the first publicly traded talent agency. French worked at IFA alongside such agents as John Ptak and Mike Medavoy, and the agency later merged with Creative Management Associates to create ICM.
French moved to Paramount in 1974 and worked behind the scenes on some of the era’s most iconic examples of cinema including Chinatown. He became chief of production at Paramount in 1977, when Barry Diller joined the company as president. French held that job for two years, during which time he executive produced and co-financed Paul Schrader’s director debut, Blue Collar (1978), starring Richard Pryor and Harvey Keitel.
French also executive produced the 1977 TV-themed comedy Prime Time at the studio.
He later joined Act III, the indie production company launched by Norman Lear and Perenchio. The pair earlier had run T.A.T. which produced such classic TV series as The Jeffersons; One Day at a Time; Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; and Fernwood 2Night/America 2-Night.
French later was executive producer on I’ll Be Home for Christmas, a 1998 Disney film starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Jessica Biel.
Born in London in 1936, French eventually hopped a cargo plane to Los Angeles, where he met model and painter Jessie Homer. They married after just two months, on Valentine’s Day 1969.
A voting member of the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences since 1963, French continued to attend or screen a movie nearly every day after retiring from the entertainment industry, his family said.
“During more than a half-century, I have always felt privileged, and obligated, to vote,” he wrote to the Oscars Membership Committee in 2019. “I have exercised that right every year, and in doing so I have made it a personal rule to see all the movies in each category before voting, and to honestly cast my vote without any prejudice.”
French was an unwavering champion of his wife’s art and applied his instincts for talent management to her career. The two collaborated intensely in recent years, and Mrs. French’s paintings have since exhibited internationally.
Along with his wife, survivors include son, Spencer; daughters Amy and Agatha; and grandchildren Fiona, Weston and Holland.
The family said he will be buried nearby his late daughter, Valentina, and that there will be no public memorial service, per his wishes. Donations can be made in French’s name to childfund.org or the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Deadline’s Peter Bart contributed to this report.
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