Gerry Lewis Dies: Veteran International Consultant & Longtime Steven Spielberg Collaborator Was 91

Nancy Tartaglione

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Longtime international marketing consultant to Steven Spielberg, Gerry Lewis has died. Amblin Partners shared the news today that Lewis, 91, passed in London on January 5.

Lewis was an international movie marketing, publicity and distribution consultant who worked in both the British and Hollywood industries for the better part of a century. He consulted at majors Paramount and Universal, first meeting a young Spielberg in the early 70s when he launched an international release for the filmmaker’s Duel. The pair went on to collaborate on such films as Jaws, E.T., Schindler’s List, Ready Player One and more. He also was known for leading notable campaigns on Alfie, The Odd Couple, Love Story and The Godfather.

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Said Spielberg today, “Gerry was a wealth of knowledge. He loved movies and filmmakers, and his understanding and respect of culture and the diversity of cultures made him invaluable to the distribution of movies internationally. He was really there for me before anyone else and truly was the first member of the ‘movie family’ that grew around me after Duel. He was an integral part of so many unforgettable moments of my career and I will miss his wonderful smile and his sage advice.”

Duncan Clark, President of Distribution, Universal Pictures International, tells Deadline, Lewis “was a renaissance man for the development and protection of all things in the international marketing, publicity and distribution business. He taught me more than the rest of his peers put together — an amazing executive — tough, uncompromising and in his prime, a fierce no-holds-barred competitor. All that alongside boundless energy and a very wicked sense of humor. There will never be another like him.”

Born in London in 1928, Lewis began his career as a journalist in 1944 and segued to the public relations side of the business, working for London-based Mayfair, Mullally & Warner where he looked after music stars of the period. Starting in 1954, Lewis spent six years at the Rank Organisation as a unit publicist before working as unit publicist for British Lion Films’ The Entertainer starring Laurence Olivier.

A stunt in support of 1965’s Dr. Who And The Daleks caught the attention of Paramount for whom Lewis eventually worked on such pictures as Richard Burton-starrer The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965) and Michael Caine vehicle Alfie (1966). Lewis further headed up campaigns for Neil Simon’s Barefoot In The Park (1967) and The Odd Couple (1968), Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968), crime caper The Italian Job (1969) and surprise hit Love Story (1970).

Lewis also worked for CIC (later UIP), Par’s joint venture with MCA Universal to distribute and publicize both studios’ output in international territories. There he worked on The Godfather, as well as such releases as Airport (1970) and Earthquake (1974). With Duel, he began a decades-long relationship with Spielberg. Lewis also held an international marketing and distribution post at DreamWorks in the 1990s.

Explaining the alchemy of his abilities, Lewis once said, “There is no great science to marketing. You marshal your resources accordingly… (and) it’s all down to two things: timing and zeitgeist!”

Lewis is survived by his wife Sheridan, sons Paul and Tom, sister Shirley, grandsons Max and Charlie, daughter-in-law Sandy, step-children Kevin and Jessica, and step-granddaughters Agnes and Elsa. He is also survived by his former wives Estelle Lewis and Val Lyon. The family requests donations be made to the Marie-Curie Hospice in Hampstead, England in his memory.

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