Elliott Kastner

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Elliott Kastner
Born(1930-01-07)January 7, 1930
DiedJune 30, 2010(2010-06-30) (aged 80)
London, UK
CitizenshipUnited States
EducationUniversity of Miami
Columbia University
OccupationFilm producer
Years active1965–2010
Spouse(s)Carolyn Hughes
(m. 1960; div. 197?)
Tessa Kennedy
(m. 1971; div. 199?)

Elliott Kastner (January 7, 1930 – June 30, 2010)[1] was an American film producer, whose best known credits include Where Eagles Dare (1968), The Long Goodbye (1973), The Missouri Breaks (1976) and Angel Heart (1987).

Early life and education[edit]

Kastner was born to a Jewish family[2] in New York City. His father died when he was young and he was raised by his mother in Harlem.[3]

He attended the University of Miami and Columbia University. During the 1950s he was stationed with U.S. Eucom (United States European Command), in Frankfurt, Germany and Paris, France.


Kastner worked in the mail room at the William Morris Agency in New York, becoming a literary agent.

He moved to Los Angeles and became a talent agent at the Music Corporation of America (MCA). When that agency merged with Decca Records, which owned Universal Pictures, Lew Wasserman, the president of MCA, made Kastner vice president of production at Universal. He worked there for two years before becoming an independent producer.


Kastner's first film as producer was Bus Riley's Back in Town (1965) based on a script by William Inge and starring Ann-Margret and Michael Parks. Inge was so unhappy with the final result he requested his name be taken off the credits and the film was not a commercial or critical success.

Jerry Gershwin[edit]

Kastner then teamed up with producer Jerry Gershwin to form Winkast Film Productions, based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. They wound up making eleven movies together, the first of which was the highly popular Harper (1966) from a novel by Ross Macdonald and directed by Jack Smight. The screenplay was written by William Goldman who had been talking to Kastner about a film of Goldman's novel Boys and Girls Together; Goldman suggested that the Ross MacDonald Lew Archer series would make a good movie, and Kastner bought the rights.[4] Kastner then got Goldman to write a sequel The Chill, but it was never made.[5]

Kastner's third film was Kaleidescope (1966), made in England, directed by Smight with Warren Beatty and Susannah York. Kastner and Gershwin raised the finance independently, and sold it to a studio, Warner Bros. "That was the beginning of producers taking control creatively by self financing,” said his stepson Cassian Elwes, who later became a producer himself.[1]

Winkast then made The Bobo (1968), starring Peter Sellers and his then-wife Britt Ekland, and Sweet November (1968), with Sandy Duncan. Both were released through Warners, but Sol Madrid (1968) was released through MGM.

Sol Madrid was directed by Brian G. Hutton who helmed Kastner and Gershwin's next film, Where Eagles Dare (1968). The producer had managed to persuade Alistair MacLean to write an original screenplay as a vehicle for Richard Burton (it was later turned into a novel).[6] The movie was a big hit and led to Kastner adapting several other MacLean stories and working with Burton a number of other times.

Less popular was The Night of the Following Day (1969) with Marlon Brando.

Burton was meant to star in Laughter in the Dark (1969) but was fired during filming and replaced by Nicol Williamson.

Other MacLean adaptations included When Eight Bells Toll (1971), Fear is the Key and Breakheart Pass (1975). He would also reteam with Burton on several occasions - as well as working with Burton's wife, Elizabeth Taylor.

Kastner also partnered up with noted producers Alan Ladd, Jr. and Jay Kanter and together they produced the films Villain (1971), The Nightcomers (1972), Zee and Co. (1972) and Fear Is the Key (1972).

Kastner is also famous for his film adaptations of three Raymond Chandler's novels based on the exploits of one of Chandler's most famous creations, Philip Marlowe: The Long Goodbye (1973), Farewell, My Lovely (1975) and The Big Sleep (1978) the latter two both starring Robert Mitchum as Marlowe.

In 1976 Kastner produced The Missouri Breaks starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson. Kastner famously got each star to commit by lying and telling them the other one had already signed.[5]

In a 1977 article Mario Puzo wrote about the Cannes Film Festival said that a group of producers regarded Kastner as "the greatest genius in the movie business... [he] has put together very big films, nearly all of which are flops. And yet he can get the money and stars to produce any movie he decides to. He does it with a phone, irresistible charm, and shameless chutzpah."[7]

Colleague Jay Kanter said Kastner's reputation in Hollywood was "Some good, some bad. He was relentless in pursuing what he wanted. I mean dogged in his pursuit.”[5] He added "If Elliott believed in some material, he'd never hesitate to put his own money into buying it and hiring writers to develop a screenplay. He was passionate about what he did, and he was a terrific salesman as well."[8]

His obituary in the Guardian stated that "Kastner was relentless in his pursuit of getting what he wanted. Mostly he wanted to entice well-known playwrights and novelists to write screenplays, or gain the rights of those works whose authors were no longer around to cajole."[3]

Later years[edit]

In the mid 1980s Kastner frequently worked with his step son, Cassian Elwes. In the 1970s he had mentored Arnon Milchan.

In 1987 Kastner and a partner bought 70% of Cinema Group Home video.[9]

In the late 1990s he bought Roger Corman's Concorde New Horizons for $100 million.[10][11]

Kastner's career was marked by a number of lawsuits, including with Mickey Rourke[12] and David McClintick,[13] and over the film Frank and Jesse.[14]


He was married and divorced twice. He was the second husband of the interior designer Tessa Kennedy (m 1971), with whom he had two children, a son, Dillon and a daughter, Milica. He had been introduced to Kennedy by Warren Beatty. "The marriage worked very well," says Kennedy. "For eight years we'd only spend three or four days a month together. It wouldn't have lasted more than a year if we'd been together because we're very different and volatile." Kennedy and Kastner separated in 1995.

He was also a stepfather to Kennedy's three sons from a previous marriage: film producer Cassian Elwes, artist Damian Elwes and actor Cary Elwes.


Elliott Kastner died of cancer on June 30, 2010 in London at the age of 80.[15][16][17]

Towards the end of his life he had approached David Thomson to see if he was interested in writing Kastner's biography.[18] Thomson recalled:

He was the way producers were once supposed to be—showily cynical yet deeply attached to his projects; absolutely aware that a producer had to make a lot of pictures before the trash and the triumphs got sorted out; belligerent but sensitive, tough-mouthed sometimes; arrogant and Cagneyesque, but very well read; devoted to writers and alert to children... He admitted he had been a scoundrel sometimes—you had to be—but he knew there was good work to show for it.[18]

According to one obituary he: "Was noted for his skill in bringing together writers, directors and stars for generally commercial (though sometimes surprisingly cerebral) films. He excelled in literary adaptations, from popular works such as those of Raymond Chandler and Alistair MacLean to the more esoteric output of such writers as Iris Murdoch, Vladimir Nabokov and Edna O'Brien. He also favoured tales with strong, single-minded heroes and produced films featuring such actors as Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Robert Mitchum, Burt Reynolds and Richard Burton."[8]

In 2014 it was announced a deal had been struck to release all of his films on DVD.[19]


Unmade films[edit]

Theatre credits[edit]

  • Two Weeks Somewhere Else by Herman Raucher (1966)[40]
  • Marilyn! The Musical (1983)[41]


  1. ^ a b Obituary at Variety
  2. ^ Erens, Patricia The Jew in American Cinema ISBN 9780253204936 | ISBN 0253204933 | Publisher: Indiana University Press | Publish Date: August 1988
  3. ^ a b Ronald Bergan, Elliott Kastner obituary, The Guardian 29 July 2010
  4. ^ 'I Like It. I Want It. Let's Sew It Up.' By PETER BART. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 07 Aug 1966: 95.
  5. ^ a b c New York Times obituary
  6. ^ Aba, Marika (21 July 1968) "The Burtons... 'Just Another Working Couple'". Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif]. c18.
  7. ^ How I Went To the Festival But Missed All the Movies: How I Missed All The Festival Movies By MARIO PUZO. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 June 1977: D1.
  8. ^ a b Tom Vallance, "Elliott Kastner obituary", The Independent, 17 July 2010
  9. ^ Blay and Kastner Acquire Cinema Group Home Video Harris, Kathryn. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 10 June 1987: A2
  10. ^ A Lion of B Movies To Sell Company To an Independent By GERALDINE FABRIKANT. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 10 Feb 1997: D9.
  11. ^ Bates, James (February 10, 1997). "B-Movie King Corman to Sell Company". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ "Rourke in Dispute Over 'Homeboy'". Los Angeles Times. May 27, 1989.
  13. ^ http://www.leagle.com/decision/19971208972FSupp236_11182.xml/TIME,%20INC.%20v.%20KASTNER
  14. ^ Galbraith, Jane (March 15, 1994). "Ark. Town Gunning for James Gang : Movies: The citizens of Van Buren claim that the producers of 'Frank and Jesse' stiffed them. 'Nobody is going to be shabbily treated,' its co-producer says". Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ Kastner Obituary Archived 2010-07-05 at the Wayback Machine; accessed May 5, 2014.
  16. ^ Elliott Kastner obituary, nytimes.com, July 2, 2010; accessed May 5, 2014.
  17. ^ Variety obituary, variety.com; accessed May 5, 2014.
  18. ^ a b https://newrepublic.com/article/books-and-arts/76147/elliott-kastner-1930-2010
  19. ^ http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php?/archives/8270-HOLLYWOOD-CLASSICS-TO-DISTRIBUTE-FILMS-FROM-ELLIOT-KASTNER-LIBRARY.html
  20. ^ http://fortune.com/2014/01/03/meet-independent-films-go-to-fixer/
  21. ^ TEAM SET TO FILM OSCAR LEWIS BOOK: Vittorio de Sica Will Direct 'Children of Sanchez' Will Have International Cast Boccaccio 70" Selected Russian Movie to Open By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 17 Mar 1962: 17.
  22. ^ Bruce Yarnell Joins 'Irma La Douce' Cast Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 June 1962: C7.
  23. ^ Jane Fonda Heads 'Hanno's Doll' Cast Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 19 June 1962: C7.
  24. ^ Loads of Culture On the Horizon: More on Movie Matters By A.H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 29 May 1966: D9.
  25. ^ a b c d e f Kinematograph Weekly 24 Feb 1966 p 12 Archived 2015-12-24 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Cinema by, but Not Necessarily for, Television Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 July 1968: c14.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g MOVIE CALL SHEET: Team to Produce 14 Films Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 30 Nov 1966: D16.
  28. ^ a b TOP PIX DEALS GOPOOF: "Say, what ever happened with that script I read you had all set up to shoot in Swaziland with Paul Newman, Raquel Welch, the Spanish Air Force, Godzilla and the June Taylor Dancers?" he asked, folding his copy of the Hollywood Reporter. "Don't ask," the man answered. Adler, Dick. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 31 Jan 1971: u14.
  29. ^ Gore Vidal Sought to Pen Film Story of Late W.C. Fields' Life Manners, Dorothy. The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] 19 Sep 1968: B7.
  30. ^ Gershwin, Kastner Will Film 'The Forty Days' Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 11 Apr 1969: g28.
  31. ^ The Many-Movied Malamud: Many-Movied Malamud By A.H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 26 July 1970: 71.
  32. ^ Drive, Gene Hackman Said: Drive, Gene Hackman Said By A. H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 06 Feb 1972: D15.
  33. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Team to Film 'Jailbreak' Scheuer, Lucie K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 June 1973: a6.
  34. ^ FILM CLIPS: Stardom--Science or Fiction? Kilday, Gregg. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 07 May 1977: b6.
  35. ^ 'Serpentine' Book Sold To Films for $1 Million: 'Strictly Cash and Carry' 'Omnibus' to Return to TV 'Modigliani' Bought for Pacino Warner Offers Prize By ALJEAN HARMETZ Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 15 Nov 1979: C16.
  36. ^ Rampage' on again, off again, late again: Celebrities Beck, Marllyn. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 27 Aug 1987: D8.
  37. ^ OUTTAKES: SCANDALOUS Clark TaylorNikki FinkePatrick GoldsteinCraig ModdernoLeonard KladyPat BroeskeChris WillmanLeonard KladyLeonard KladyLeonard KladyBelma Johnson. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 25 Oct 1987: K18.
  38. ^ http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/1995/11/begelman199511
  39. ^ Stones to be together separately: Celebrities Beck, Marilyn. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 14 Apr 1988: D13C.
  40. ^ The Rialto: A Secret's Out: News of the Rialto Secret Is Out WHY ALBEE? STRATFORD SEASON ROUNDUP By LEWIS FUNKEFriedman-Abeles. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 Nov 1966: D1.
  41. ^ Oliver, Myrna (November 7, 2000). "Stephanie Lawrence; London Musical Actress Starred in 'Evita,' 'Marilyn!'". Los Angeles Times.

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