“Lion in Winter” producer Martin Poll dead at 89

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Martin Poll

Martin Poll

Martin Poll, nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture for producing 1968’s The Lion in Winter, died Saturday in New York. He was 89.

He had pneumonia and kidney failure, his son Jon said.

Starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, The Lion in Winter was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won three. The movie won the Golden Globe for Best Picture, the New York Film Critics Award for Best Picture, two British Academy Awards and the David di Donatello Award in Italy for Best Picture.

Poll was executive producer of the cartoon-rich 1957 compilation The Big Fun Carnival, a Saturday matinee feature for children. Most of the cartoon shorts were released by Paramount. The collection included the 1932 Talkartoon Crazy Town(featuring Betty Boop); The 500 Hats Of Bartholemew Cubbins(1943), from George Pal’s Madcap Models series; Hans Fischerkoesen’s 1945 German cartoon Der Dumme Ganslein (The Silly Goose); and the 1949 Famous Studios Screen Song Toys Will Be Toys.

Several of his movies introduced now-famous actors to the screen for the first time. Besides The Lion in Winter (with Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton), they included his first feature film, Love Is a Ball, in which stars Glenn Ford and Hope Lange were joined by newcomer Telly Savalas. Other movies with screen debuts were The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970, with Don Johnson) and the made-for-TV Arthur the King (1985, with Liam Neeson).

His later works as a movie producer included 1975’s Love and Death, Woody Allen’s pastiche of Russian novels, and The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea (1976), based on a Yukio Mishima novel, and starring Sarah Miles and Kris Kristofferson.

In addition, Poll worked in TV, and was nominated for an Emmy as one of the executive producers on the 2003 Showtime remake of The Lion in Winter, starring Glenn Close. He produced CBS miniseries The Dain Curse (1978), starring James Coburn and based on Dashiell Hammett’s novel; CBS TV-movie The Fantastic Seven (1979); and NBC’s Diana: Her True Story (1993).

Born in New York City on November 24, 1922, Poll started in movies in 1954, producing 39 half-hour episodes of the Flash Gordon TV series in Germany and France over two years for international release.

Restoring the venerable and historic Biograph Studio, he reopened it in 1956 as the Gold Medal Studios, the United States’ biggest film studio outside Los Angeles. There, he produced Butterfield 8, for which Elizabeth Taylor won an Oscar for Best Actress; Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, starring a young Andy Griffith; The Middle of the Night and The Goddess, both written by Paddy Chayefsky; and “The Fugitive Kind,” directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Marlon Brando.

In 1959, he was appointed Commissioner of Motion Picture Arts of the City of New York — and was the only person ever to hold that title. Later, the city set up a film commission.

Martin Poll is survived by his wife Gladys; sons Mark Poll, a set designer, Tony Jaffe and Jon Poll, a film editor, producer and director; and three grandchildren.

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