Robert Evans was hardly the first star to invade Hollywood by stripping, although he succeeded with a little more panache than most.
One day in 1956, when he jumped into the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel while taking a break from his nasty job of selling women's pants, he was noticed by experienced Hollywood actress Norma Shearer.
Evans was perfect, she decided, to play her famous husband of the film producer [Irving Thalberg] in a film with James Cagney. Although Evans would eventually switch from acting to producing, his path to becoming a colossus of Tinseltown was firmly mapped out for him.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, Evans produced some of the best movies of the time, including Chinatown, Rosemary & Baby, The Italian Job, and the Godfather movies.
WIFE THREE: Ali McGraw and Evans. Evans was beaten by McGraw. He described her as the & # 39; most extraordinary woman of my life & # 39 ;, rapsodising about her & # 39; deadly embrace & # 39 ;, & # 39; extraordinary affection & # 39; and & # 39; achieving femininity & # 39;
His private life, however, was arguably even more colorful than his films, almost as if he had been plucked from the pages of a particularly incredible novel by Harold Robbins. An immortal ladies man like his fellow party friends Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, the charming but ruthless Evans married no fewer than seven times – none of them lasted more than three years and one only nine days.
He shamelessly closed monogamy as if not for him and had love affairs with Grace Kelly, Raquel Welch, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Liv Ullmann and Margaux Hemingway.
The perma-tanned hedonist threw Hollywood & # 39; s most scandalous parties, was convicted for possession of cocaine and was even dragged into a murder scandal.
A successful screenwriter even claimed that Evans once sent him a & # 39; congratulatory letter & # 39; had sent for one of his scripts that were hidden in the & # 39; s subregion of a woman.
Marlon Brando in The Godfather of 1972. Evans helped Coppola to convince Paramount to hire Marlon Brando, then so unreliable that he was uninsurable
& # 39; Call it and I'm afraid I did, & # 39; Evans once admitted.
At the age of 89, he died at the weekend at his home in Beverly Hills, & # 39; living proof & # 39; – according to yesterday's front page of the New York Times – & # 39; that life can be stranger than fiction & # 39 ;.
In his heyday in the 1970s, the diminutive Evans – who resembled actor Robert Wagner in his youth – chaired Paramount Pictures and waved Hollywood over a swagger that would not be matched until the arrival of Harvey Weinstein.
Evans, in his huge tinted sunglasses, equally large shirt collars, high heels and a color that is described as the color of charred bacon, was a walking, fast-speaking self-parody on Tinseltown superfluous.
WIFE SEVEN: Robert Evans and Lady Victoria White in 2008. Shortly after his 75th birthday in 2005, he married his last wife, Victoria White O & Gara, ex-wife of British financier Lord White
When he was not at a party or chasing women, he liked to hold business meetings beside his swimming pool, dressed only in a bathrobe.
The son of a Jewish dentist from Harlem in New York, became a teenage radio actor and then a promoter of women's pants. He ran a clothing store with his brother and became a millionaire at the age of 25.
However, he had always wanted to be an actor and so attracted to Hollywood, where film producer Darryl Zanuck the beginning thespian in the crucial role as a handsome bullfighter and love interest of Ava Gardner in the 1956 film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway & # 39; s story The cast Sun is also rising.
Gardner and Hemingway were both shocked but Zanuck insisted: & The child stays in the picture. And anyone who doesn't like it can stop. & # 39;
That did little to appease Hemingway, which Evans claims he heard say: & # 39; I don't want that Jewish boy on my set & # 39 ;.
Evans was not put off and Zanuck's ultimatum taught him a valuable lesson: that he wanted to be the one who brought the shots to Hollywood.
While he gradually accepted that his acting ability would only take him that far, Evans switched to producing. It was initially heavy, as he later commented: & # 39; Nobody wanted me. There is nothing worse than a beautiful boy actor who wants to become a producer. & # 39;
WIFE SIX: Robert Evans and Leslie Ann Woodward in 2003
However, as an inveterate networker who hardly lacks chutzpah, Evans persisted and soon developed a reputation as an aggressive producer who did not want to be crossed. Hollywood picked it up.
In 1967, 36 years old, he was appointed production manager at Paramount Studios and his career began.
He made it his business to know everyone who mattered, from Henry Kissinger and Cary Grant to the photographer Helmut Newton whose erotic photographs Evans could be seen prominently on his walls.
Other producers limited themselves to concerns about the finances of a film, but the non-conformist Evans insisted on being involved in choosing the actors and directors, as he did with Mia Farrow in Rosemary & # 39; s Baby and upcoming directors Roman Polanski, Sidney Lumet and Francis Ford Coppola.
He demanded an Italian-American – Coppola – directed The Godfather because he & # 39; wanted to smell the spaghetti & # 39 ;. He then helped Coppola convince Paramount to hire Marlon Brando, then so unreliable that he was uninsurable.
Evans said he had to do the same four years later when he wanted to hire Sir Laurence Olivier to play the murderous Nazi doctor in Marathon Man. Evans indeed claimed that he had to fly to London to get insurance for the cancer-stricken and & # 39; poor & # 39; British actor and give the assurance that he would not die while filming.
& # 39; Every day, the studio honcho & # 39; s said: & # 39; Get him out of here, he can die! & # 39; because if an actor dies before the photo is ready, it could close the whole thing, & Evans said.
Blockbusters: Laurence Olivier tortures Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man
Both as the boss and later as an independent producer, Evans Paramount turned into Hollywood's most successful studio with a stream of successes that began in 1968 with The Odd Couple and continued with True Grit, Serpico, The Conversation, Marathon Man and the critically grounded but hugely successful love story.
As for his own love story, the sanctity of marriage would always be a non-starter for a man like Evans.
& # 39; I have never been a monogamist & # 39 ;, he admitted. Evans was not concerned about a & # 39; ladies man & # 39; and claimed that most women needed a & # 39; male embracer – no sex, confirmation & # 39 ;.
He was more than happy to receive this & # 39; confirmation & # 39; to give to any beautiful woman who crossed his path – who, thanks to his extraordinary success as a star-maker, was barely thin on the spot.
He didn't always treat them well. Evans claimed he went out with Margaux Hemingway in revenge for the mistreatment of her grandfather Ernest of him 32 years earlier.
Celebrating Evans & # 39; 60th birthday with pink champagne at the Ritz in Paris, the actress grumbled at her happiness of being with him.
Evans said he replied: “I can't say the same for you. I don't know if it's lust or revenge, because your grandfather would never look at me. & # 39;
He added: & # 39; I thought she would hit me in the face or something. & # 39;
His wives, all actresses, include the dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg, who was canceled after nine days in July 1998. Often it was Evans who killed the marriage, although in the case of his third with Ali McGraw, the beautiful star of Love Story, he was the innocent party.
Evans was beaten by McGraw. He described her as the & # 39; most extraordinary woman of my life & # 39 ;, rapsodising about her & # 39; deadly embrace & # 39 ;, & # 39; extraordinary affection & # 39; and & # 39; retrieve femininity & # 39 ;.
They had a son, Josh, but their happy family was undone after Evans made the mistake of introducing his wife to Steve McQueen, an even worse womanizer than him, after persuading her to show McQueen's wife on screen to play in the 1972 thriller, The Getaway.
Evans worked in Paris when he discovered that the co-stars were having an affair and McGraw later left him for McQueen.
Perhaps because he himself was an old hand in infidelity, Evans took it on his chin and even blamed himself.
& # 39; I left her on a set with the coolest man in the world. What did I think of? & # 39; he said in his autobiography. He also noted: & # 39; If your wife leaves you, it's hard, but if she leaves you for the most famous man in the world, you feel a little small. & # 39;
His other major vice – drugs – was to cause him far more serious problems than his injured pride.
He was hopelessly addicted to cocaine – he claimed he had back pain – and in 1980 he was arrested with his brother and brother-in-law for their involvement in a major cocaine deal.
Evans succeeded in pleading guilty about possession of cocaine in a plea in which he made an anti-drug TV movie entitled Get High On Yourself.
Although it came as no surprise to anyone, Evans later claimed that the drug was ubiquitous in Hollywood at the time. & # 39; Cola lines were offered as cups of coffee, & # 39; he remembered.
& # 39; Agents, lawyers, studio heads, movie stars – everyone did it, but agents were the worst, as always. Deals were made with cola as partial payment as a second currency. & # 39;
Much of the cocaine was sniffed at raucous parties at his mansion in Beverly Hills, religiously visited by Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and other oversigned male stars who were happy to meet the other guests – an endless supply of attractive young women hoping to be noticed to be in Hollywood.
In 1983, Evans became embroiled in an even more serious scandal when he was dragged into a murder investigation into the execution-like shooting of Roy Radin, a theater producer.
Radin, who had worked with Evans on a film about the Cotton Club in New York, was found in the California desert, riddled with bullets and a bar of dynamite in his mouth.
Evans refused to testify at the trial about the murder not to accuse himself, but he was never charged.
His reputation has never fully recovered from the scandal and his later career was plagued by cocaine problems and a series of bad films.
Even towards the end of his life, Evans refused to free himself from the fast lane.
Shortly after his 75th birthday in 2005, he married his last wife, Victoria White O & Gara, ex-wife of British financier Lord White.
She filed a divorce less than a year later and cited incompatible differences.
Since he first conquered Hollywood, a debate has been going on about exactly how much the iconic films he produced owe their brilliance and success to him.
But Evans remained challenging until the last and went to Twitter for the last time in July to scold a journalist who in his opinion did not glow sufficiently about his career.
& # 39; I bet I have done more in the last month than you have in your entire life, & # 39; Evans roared.
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