Ray Otto Stark (born October 3, 1915) was one of the most successful and prolific independent film producers in postwar Hollywood. Highly tenacious and intelligent, Stark’s background as a literary and theatrical agent groomed him to produce some of the most dynamic and profitable films of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, such as The World of Suzie Wong (1961), West Side Story (1961), The Misfits (1961),
Lolita (1962), The Night of The Iguana (1964), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), Funny Girl (1968), The Goodbye Girl (1977), The Toy (1982), Annie (1982), and Steel Magnolias (1989). In addition to his roster of films, Stark formed relationships with various Directors and Writers throughout his inspired career. Stark made eight films with Herbert Ross, four with John Huston, and three with Sydney Pollack. Additionally, Stark’s 18 year partnership with playwright Neil Simon yielded 11 films between the duo, including The Goodbye Girl (1977), and The Sunshine Boys (1975). In 1980, the Motion Picture Academy awarded him the Irving G. Thalberg award for a lifetime of achievement in film.
Raymond Otto Stark was born in Manhattan on October 3, 1915. The second child of Maximilian Stark and Sadie Gotlieb, Ray grew up in a three-story brownstone on East 58th street near Central Park. It was Ray’s mother, Sadie, who took a dutiful approach to his education, grooming him to be well-read and precocious. Ray attended grade school in Manhattan, skipping two grades, before attending The Kohut School, an upper-class boarding school for boys in Harrison, New York. There, Stark’s major scholastic interest was writing. Stark went on to write articles for the school’s newspaper, the Kohut Klipper, in which his first article was an interview with actress Ginger Rogers.
In 1931, at 15 years of age, Stark was the youngest student ever admitted to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. At Rutgers, Stark continued to take strong interest in literature (one of his favorite classes was Shakespeare) however he did not know how to pursue it occupationally. In 1935, Stark returned to the brownstone in Manhattan to attend NYU Law, although he did not graduate.
As Stark’s interests shifted to journalism, Stark took an opportunity to live with a friend in Los Angeles. Following a job as a florist at Forest Lawn Cemetery and a writing assistant to Comedian and Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, Stark took a job as a publicist for Warner Brothers in 1938 before leaving to work as a Literary Agent in 1939. After the war, Stark began selling Red Ryder radio scripts written by his former Shakespearean professor at Rutgers. Before long, he was handling such outstanding literary talents as Raymond Chandler, John P. Marquand, James Gould Cozzens and Ben Hecht.
Seven-Arts Productions (w Eliot Heyman)
Stark was an executive at Columbia Pictures during the 1970s and 80s. In 1977, actor Cliff Robertson began an investigation which revealed that Columbia President David Begelman had forged checks, Stark told Robertson to not press on. Robertson said he would do "what a citizen should do in this situation," and Robertson was blacklisted for two years. The story is detailed in David McClintick's Indecent Exposure: a True Story of Hollywood and Wall Street.
He received the Irving G. Thalberg award in 1980 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, presented to him by lifelong friend and colleague Kirk Douglas who introduced Stark as the unseen "Oz" of Hollywood. Stark was known for his distaste for public appearances and belief that talent, not producers, should receive all public attention.
Stark was later awarded the David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award from the Producers Guild of America in 1999, with guild President Thom Mount calling him "one of Hollywood's most prolific film producers ... the stuff of legend."
On his death in 2004, Stark was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Following his death, a large part of his modern sculpture collection was given to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The Ray and Fran Stark Sculpture Garden opened in 2007 and accounts for approximately 75% of the sculptures in the museum's collection.
- The World of Suzie Wong (1960, Paramount Pictures)
- The Night of the Iguana (1964, MGM)
- This Property Is Condemned (1966, Paramount)
- Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967, Warner Bros.)
- Funny Girl (1968, Columbia)
- The Owl and the Pussycat (1970, Columbia)
- Fat City (1972, Columbia)
- The Way We Were (1973, Columbia)
- The Sunshine Boys (1975, MGM)
- Funny Lady (1975, Columbia)
- Robin and Marian (1976, Columbia)
- Murder by Death (1976, Columbia)
- The Goodbye Girl (1977, MGM)
- Smokey and the Bandit (1977, Universal)
- The Cheap Detective (1978, Columbia)
- California Suite (1978, Columbia)
- The Electric Horseman (1979, Universal/Columbia)
- Chapter Two (1979, Columbia)
- Annie (1982, Columbia)
- The Slugger's Wife (1985, Columbia)
- Steel Magnolias (1989, TriStar)
- Lost in Yonkers (1993, Columbia)
- Barbarians at the Gate (1993, HBO, made for TV)