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Sam Cohn, the legendary talent agent who joined ICM at its inception, died Wednesday following a brief illness in New York, five days shy of his 80th birthday.
Cohn was with ICM from 1975 until February. A tried and true New Yorker, he chose to remain on the East Coast during his career, heading the agency’s Big Apple office for almost 25 years.
Cohn’s clients included Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Marshall Brickman, E.L. Doctorow, Nora Ephron, Bob Fosse, Jackie Gleason, John Guare, Kander & Ebb, Peter Maas, Arthur Miller, Paul Newman, Mike Nichols, Arthur Penn, Vanessa Redgrave, Susan Sarandon, Peter Stone, Meryl Streep, Steve Tesich, Lily Tomlin, Kathleen Turner, Sigourney Weaver and Dianne Wiest, among many others.
Cohn was often referred to as “the most difficult man in the business to get on the phone.”
In 1982, the New Yorker observed that in the previous year, there were “10 feature films and nine Broadway or off-Broadway plays opened that were written, directed or produced by one of his clients or in which a Cohn client had a major acting role.”
In a 1993 story, Time magazine noted that Cohn got Columbia Pictures to pay an “astonishing” $9.5 million for the movie rights to the Broadway musical “Annie.”
Cohn was born May 11, 1929 in Altoona, Pa. He graduated from Princeton University and Yale Law School, then began his career in the business affairs department of CBS. He later became partner at the law firm Marshall, Bratter, Greene, Allison & Tucker.
In 1963, Cohn joined General Artists Corp., which merged with Creative Management Associates and took the CMA name for the combined company. In 1975, Marvin Josephson Associates, which owned a talent agency called International Famous Agency, purchased CMA, at which point the agencies were combined under the name International Creative Management.
Cohn is survived by his wife, Jane Gelfman; son Peter Cohn; daughter Marya Cohn; and four grandchildren.