Harryhausen producer Charles Schneer dies

'7th Voyage of Sinbad,' 'Hellcats of the Navy' among credits

Charles Schneer, a producer who collaborated with special-effects wizard Ray Harryhausen to make such film fantasy classics as "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" and "Jason and the Argonauts," died Jan. 21 at a hospice in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 88.

Also among Schneer's 25 films as producer was "Hellcats of the Navy" (1957), in which former President Ronald Reagan and former first lady Nancy Reagan made their only screen appearance together.

Schneer and Harryhausen also teamed on "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver" (1960), two other films about the mythical nautical adventurer Sinbad, "It Came from Beneath the Sea" (1955) and their last film together, "Clash of the Titans" (1981).

On his own, Schneer produced "Half a Sixpence," the 1967 film version of the London and Broadway musical starring Tommy Steele. He also was responsible for the 1960 biographical film on the life of German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, "I Aim at the Stars," and several World War II action dramas, including "Hellcats," in which Reagan portrayed a U.S. Navy submarine captain and the future Mrs. Reagan, then known by the screen name Nancy Davis, played a Navy nurse.

During World War II, Schneer, a native of Norfolk, Va., served as a member of the U.S. Army's Signal Corps Photographic Unit stationed on a film studio on Long Island. At age 22, he found himself producing training films working with a number of the industry's top writers and directors, who also served in the unit.

After the war, Schneer moved to Hollywood and worked briefly for Universal Pictures before joining Columbia Pictures' low-budget production unit headed by legendary exploitation movie producer Sam Katzman.

Schneer had the idea of a making a film about a giant octopus that pulls down the Golden Gate Bridge and was introduced to Harryhausen by an Army friend. Harryhausen had honed his craft with Willis O'Brien, who, in the 1930s, was responsible for the most famous of all stop-motion creations, 1933's "King Kong."

Schneer and Harryhausen then made "It Came from Beneath the Sea," which gave Schneer his first credit as a producer. Keeping with Katzman's low-budget mantra, however, the film's octopus only had six tentacles instead of the customary eight.

As Harryhausen says in his autobiography "Film Fantasy Scrapbook": "Two tentacles less to build and animate during the long process of stop-motion photography did save quite a bit of time. And in Hollywood, time is money."

Schneer and Harryhausen went on to make "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" (1956) and "20 Million Miles to Earth" (1957), the latter produced by Schneer's new Morningside Prods. independent company.

"The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" (1958) was the duo's first film in "Dynamation," the name they had given to the stop-motion process.

In 1960, Schneer shifted his base of operations to London, where he was to remain for the next 45 years.

Schneer is survived by his wife of 68 years, Shirley; daughters Lesley Silver and Stacey Schneer Lee; three grandchildren, Ben Lawrence, Jenessa Freid and Jared Lee; four great grandchildren; and a sister, Babette Schneer Katz.

Donations in Schneer's name may be made to the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in Rochester, Minn.
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