Harry Clein, a veteran film publicist who wrote the original press notes for Star Wars and helped develop the innovative internet campaign for The Blair Witch Project, died June 18 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder in Atlanta. He was 82.
His death was announced by spokesperson Mark Pogachefsky.
Clein, along with Bruce Feldman, cofounded the Clein + Feldman agency in 1981. Their first client was director Alan J. Pakula and his film Sophie’s Choice.
With offices on both coasts and quickly developing a reputation as an innovative shop for independent distributors, producers and filmmakers, the agency became Clein + White in 1989, with the addition of Cara White as a partner and the departure of Feldman for a studio career. Clein + White closed in 2000, with Clein focusing on producing and marketing consultation. He also taught at the Los Angeles Film School.
Earlier in his career, Clein was a unit publicist on such films as All the President’s Men, The Jazz Singer, The Last Tycoon, Foul Play, Starting Over, Comes A Horseman, First Love and others. He wrote the press notes for 1977’s Star Wars. He also worked at Pat Kingsley and Lois Smith’s Pickwick Public Relations as an account executive/writer, working with Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw, Candice Bergen, Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, and others.
After cofounding his own agency, Clein’s projects would come to include Oscar-winners Places in the Heart, Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Trip To Bountiful, and a long roster of films including some of the indie world’s most notable titles: Mona Lisa, She’s Gotta Have it, Dirty Dancing, Heathers, sex, lies, and videotape, 28Up, Cinema Paradiso, Drugstore Cowboy, Gods and Monsters, Talk Radio, The Usual Suspects, The Dead, In the Company of Men, I Shot Andy Warhol, Life Is Sweet, Steel Magnolias, Gothic, The Brothers McMullen, My Own Private Idaho, The Joy Luck Club, The Player, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise and Welcome to the Dollhouse, among others.
In 1999, Clein partnered with Jeremy Walker to handle the Sundance Film Festival launch and theatrical release campaign for The Blair Witch Project, devising a publicity and marketing campaign that successfully utilized both traditional strategies and the still-emerging internet. The project won Clein the 2000 AMPAS Publicists Guild Career Achievement Award.
As a consultant, Clein worked with Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen on the announcement of their new studio DreamWorks SKG, and with Robert Cort on Mr. Holland’s Opus, Wendy Finerman and Robert Zemeckis on Forrest Gump, Steve Jobs and Pixar Studios for Toy Story, Gillian Armstrong on Little Women, Tim Burton on Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns and Ed Wood, Wes Craven, Barry Levinson, Wolfgang Peterson and many others.
He also directed PR campaigns for the American Ballet Theatre, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Sundance Institute.
Prior to his public relations career, Clein was an NBC Today Show page in New York, then moved to Los Angeles and took a job with the Merit Detective agency, which he’d later say involved posing as an employee at Disneyland for a summer.
Clein would also rack up a brief stint at Jay Bernstein Public Relations, a year as Hollywood gossip columnist Joyce Haber’s assistant, and writing gigs for the Los Angeles Times, TV Guide, Show and Coast magazines, and the short-lived trade Entertainment World.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Clein attended Phillips Academy and received a BA in architecture from Yale and an MA in playwriting from Yale School of Drama. He is survived by his brother, Warren Clein, sister-in-law Carolyn) and two nephews.
The family asks that donations in his name be made to the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta.