George Litto Dies: Talent Agent To Robert Altman And Ossie Davis Collaborator Was 88

George Litto (Courtesy: Andria Litto)
Andria Litto

George Litto, a longtime Hollywood talent agent who represented blacklisted writers and collaborated with Melvin Van Peeples and Ossie Davis, has died. He was 88.

Litto passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on April 29 from complications of aortic stenosis, his daughter and business partner, Andria Litto, told Deadline.

George Litto started in the mailroom at William Morris New York in 1954, and worked his way up to an agent, booking summer stock theatre. Among his early successes was helping Mae West secure a role in Come On Up (Ring Twice).

There would be many other famous clients when he moved to boutique agencies in Los Angeles before opening The George Litto Agency in the mid-1960s.

Litto represented Mel Davenport, aka Waldo Salt, who at the time was working in New York under his pseudonym because he was blacklisted. George put him to work under his own name on the film, Midnight Cowboy (1969).

Soon after, other blacklisted writers and directors would join his client roster, including Ring Lardner Jr. (M*A*S*H), Abraham Polonsky (Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here), Joseph Loesy (The Boy With Green Hair) and Arnold Perl (Malcolm X).

After developing a reputation as a rebel, a series of “controversial” partnerships would follow. He collaborated with Melvin Van Peeples on Sweet Sweet Back’s Baadasssss Song and sold the film to Cinemation for distribution. Litto also represented Ossie Davis when he worked with Perl on Cotton Comes to Harlem (1979), which Davis directed. Among his other projects was the Perl feature Malcolm X (1972). When asked by a journalist about the film being anti-white, Litto said, “We were wrong for two hundred years. They’re entitled to two hours.”

Litto also represented non-conformist, Robert Altman, who couldn’t get a job because he had been fired from directing television movies for Kraft Theater. Litto helped Altman land the job directing M*A*S*H.

At the end of his agency tenure he represented Brian De Palma, selling Sisters for distribution and later went on to produce three films with him, Obsession, Dressed to Kill and Blow Out.

Litto is survived by his two daughters, Andria and Carla, and his ex-wife, Jacqueline.

A private memorial service will be held and his ashes will be spread off the coast of Italy in the Mediterranean, finally bringing him back to his Italian roots.

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