Hamburger Hamlet, Kate Mantilini Founder Harry Lewis Dies
Harry Lewis, a nasty accomplice of Edward G. Robinson in the Humphrey Bogart classic Key Largo who went on to launch the showbiz-hotspot restaurants Hamburger Hamlet and Kate Mantilini, has died. He was 93.
Lewis died Sunday of natural causes in a convalescent home in Beverly Hills, publicist Greg Rogers announced.
In John Huston's Key Largo (1948), Lewis played Edward “Toots” Bass, one member of Johnny Rocco’s (Robinson’s) gang who pose as vacationers before taking over a run-down hotel in South Florida as a menacing hurricane approaches.
When hotel owner James Temple (Lionel Barrymore) realizes his guests are not what they seem and says, “Are you thieves or what? You want money? Is this a robbery?” the tough guy Toots replies, “Yeah, Pop, we’re gonna steal all your towels.”
Lewis also appeared in small roles in such films as Winged Victory (1944), The Unsuspected (1947), The Adventures of Don Juan (1948), Joe Palooka in the Counterpunch (1949), Gun Crazy (1950), Bogart’s final film The Harder They Fall (1956), The Ten Commandments (1956) and Pendulum (1969); in such TV series as Panic!, The Adventures of Superman, Whirlybirds, Checkmate and Fame; and in the 1981 miniseries East of Eden.
A native of Hollywood, Lewis and his wife, Marilyn, in 1950 opened the first Hamburger Hamlet on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. They expanded to 24 locations before selling the chain in 1987 to an investment chain for $33 million.
The first Kate Mantilini, in a building designed by Morphosis partners Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, opened in 1987 and was the last original concept under the Hamburger Hamlet umbrella. It was named for the mistress of Marilyn’s uncle, Rob. Their son Adam Lewis quoted his grandmother as saying, “That was a vile woman. I can’t believe how your mother put her name up in lights.”
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro sat at the Kate Mantilini counter during a scene in Heat (1995).
The couple added a second Kate Mantilini in Woodland Hills in 2003. Harry was in the restaurants daily, and Marilyn negotiated leases and developed recipes. The couple stopped working three years ago, yielding control to Adam and his brother David.
Harry Lewis was born April 1, 1920, on Wilton Place in Hollywood. He entered the U.S. Air Force at age 19 and signed a contract with Warner Bros. after World War II.
He met his future wife when she came several straight days to the Pasadena Playhouse, where he was performing. Lewis asked for her number, saying, “How does one get to know you?” According to Adam Lewis, her response was, “One puts their finger on the dial and telephones me.”
On their first date, Harry shared his dream for a restaurant, and they started scouting locations. Several years later, they opened Hamburger Hamlet on the Sunset Strip, with Harry cooking, Marilyn waiting tables and their parents washing dishes.
When he and Marilyn got married in Las Vegas, actors Jeff Chandler and Sammy Davis Jr. ran the place. The couple opened a second Hamlet the day Adam was born, in 1955. In the late 1960s, the Lewises moved the original Hamlet up the street and off the Strip.
Over the years, the Lewises experimented with other concepts, including Hamlet Gardens, Downtown Grill and a 1970s-era disco called the Hot Club.
After founding Hamburger Hamlet, Marilyn Lewis became a fashion designer and started Cardinali. The company’s clothes were worn by the likes of Nancy Reagan, Edie Gorme, Dionne Warwick, Dyan Cannon and Marlo Thomas, who wore Cardinali on her ABC sitcom That Girl.
Lewis closed Cardinali in 1977, about a decade after it began. She later executive produced the 1990 documentary Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol and the 1999 telefilm The Passion of Ayn Rand, starring Helen Mirren.
In addition to his wife and sons, Harry Lewis' survivors include his grandchildren Kris, Brendan, Alexia, Rebecca and Benjamin.
The family said that burial service information will follow.