Attended Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Married Frances Brice; two children.
Newsman and publicity writer; after World War II, radio writer
representative, then literary agent and talent agent for Famous Players;
1957—cofounder, with Eliot Hyman, Seven Arts Productions: produced
the stage musical
, 1964; 1966—left the company to pursue independent film projects
(including Barbra Streisand films); formed Rastar Company.
Irving G. Thalberg Award, 1979.
c/o Rastar Films, Sony Studios, Hepburn West, 10202 W. Washington, Culver
City, California 90232, U.S.A.
The World of Suzie Wong (Quine)
The Night of the Iguana (Huston)
Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad (Quine)
Funny Girl (Wyler)
The Owl and the Pussycat (Ross)
Fat City (Huston)
The Way We Were (Pollack)
Funny Lady (Ross); The Sunshine Boys (Ross)
Murder By Death (Moore)
The Goodbye Girl (Ross)
Casey's Shadow (Ritt); The Cheap Detective (Moore); California Suite (Ross)
The Electric Horseman (Pollack); Chapter Two (Moore)
Seems Like Old Times (Sandrich); The Hunter (Kulik)
The Slugger's Wife (Ashby)
Brighton Beach Memoirs (Saks)
Biloxi Blues (Nichols)
Steel Magnolias (Ross)
Barbarians at the Gate (Jordan); Lost in Yonkers (Coolidge)
Jacobson, Harlan, "Stark Reality," in Film Comment (New York), July-August 1982.
Time Out (London), 3–9 September 1982.
* * *
Ray Stark should be remembered as the archetypal movie producer of the television age. This ultimate Hollywood hustler turned agent turned producer created deal after deal in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s that more often than not became very popular feature films. Few ever became mega-blockbusters; fewer still lost money. The studio bosses of the era loved Stark, because when he brought them a project they almost certainly had a "sure thing."
Stark made his reputation utilizing the talents of two very popular entertainers. First came the fabulously successful Barbra Streisand films: Funny Girl, The Owl and the Pussycat, The Way We Were , and Funny Lady , the sequel to Funny Girl. In their years of release these films finished second, fifth, eleventh, and tenth on Variety 's ranking of money earning power. Stark had long sought to produce the story of the life of noted vaudeville comic Fanny Brice, his mother-in-law. He started on Broadway fashioning Funny Girl into a Broadway smash. Hollywood success easily followed.
In the 1970s Stark turned to a second consistent source of making money, transforming the plays of Neil Simon into movie hits. Thus audiences came to adore The Sunshine Boys , Murder By Death , The Goodbye Girl , and California Suite. All ranked high in Variety 's yearly list of top money making films for their respective year of release.
But while Stark was basking in the glow of Hollywood's praise, forces were changing the industry. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg transformed the movie business of the 1970s with their films for young people, while Stark stuck with proven adult fare. Stark continued to package hits in his proven way and continued to make money, but his greatest success was behind him.
Stark then ascended into myth. He showcased his enormous wealth, estimated to be well in excess of $100 million. He hid his origins, telling all who would listen of his "rags to riches" life story. So, despite his considerable fame, we do not know when he was born; the best guess is sometime around 1914. His rise to fame as a producer we think includes brief careers as a college student, a journalist, a movie publicist, a literary agent, and a talent agent. He only lets us in on what he deems the highlights: writing "Red Ryder" scripts for radio, representing such authors as Ben Hecht and Raymond Chandler, serving as a talent agent for Marilyn Monroe, Richard Burton, and Kirk Douglas.
Some details are firm. In 1957 he did form Seven Arts Productions (with Eliot Hyman). In 1960 he did produce his first independent feature film, The World of Suzie Wong. In 1968 he resigned as executive vice president and head of production of Seven Arts to form Rastar, his own independent production company. In 1979 he did win Oscar's Irving G. Thalberg Award. But it is the legend that he would like us to focus on, a career that combined serious, ambitious projects with regular commercial success.