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Sam Adams, the literary agent who represented the likes of Alvin Sargent, John Badham, Peter Bogdanovich, Margaret Atwood, Earl Hamner Jr. and Stephen J. Cannell during his long career, has died. He was 94.
Adams died Saturday of natural causes at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, his wife of 35 years, harpsichordist Kathleen McIntosh, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Adams, who briefly worked as a reporter and reviewer for THR in the 1950s, exited Sam Jaffe’s Jaffe Agency in 1963 to launch his own firm with colleague Rick Ray, and they added Lee Rosenberg the following year to become the literary and packaging agency Adams, Ray & Rosenberg. The firm represented hundreds of writers in its heyday.
Adams also negotiated deals involving such films as Klute (1971), Oklahoma Crude (1973), Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Caddyshack (1980) and repped other clients including Carol Sobieski, Walter Doniger, Paul Henreid, Norman Hudis and Isaac Bashevis Singer. One of his last deals involved Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale.
Adams, Ray & Rosenberg was absorbed into what became Triad Artists in 1984, and after Adams retired, Triad was acquired by William Morris in 1992.
Adams was born in Chicago on April 4, 1927. When he was 7, he and his mother moved to Los Angeles so she could work as a secretary for her brother Joseph Schnitzer, a top production executive at RKO Studios. This was 1934, the same year Schnitzer and one of his brothers bought Western Costumes.
When Adams portrayed Adolf Hitler in a Beverly Hills High School play in 1942, his uncle gave him the Hitler-like uniform that Charlie Chaplin had worn in The Great Dictator (1940). “That got me some notoriety in school,” he recalled in an oral history of his life that was published in 2016.
Adams also worked on the school newspaper, the Beverly Hills Highlights, where he became great friends with future casting director Lynn Stalmaster.
During his last two years in high school, Adams served as a messenger at Warner Bros., then returned to that gig after an 18-month stint with the U.S. Army.
“Every day I delivered messages to [Humphrey] Bogart, Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith and Bette Davis,” he said. “I saw Bette Davis throw a fit, as well as Edward G. Robinson. Bogart asked me to take friends of his on a studio tour. Whatever he asked me, I said, ‘Yes, Mr. Bogart!’ He liked my attitude.”
Later, Adams worked for the Los Angeles Examiner, Armed Forces Radio Services and the Beverly Hills Press before joining THR in 1955. He said Jaffe liked his theater and opera reviews when he hired him as a junior agent at the Jaffe Agency.
After getting fired, he joined an agency run by Ingo Preminger (brother of director Otto Preminger) but returned to Jaffe shortly after Preminger’s firm was sold to General Artists Corp. in 1961.
“One day in 1963 my colleague Rick Ray says at lunch, ‘So why don’t we do this agenting for ourselves?'” he recalled. “We were still young and gung-ho.”
After his first wife died in 1975, Adams married McIntosh in 1986, and they moved to Santa Fe four years later. Adams later won awards as a photographer and loved to travel — he took a trip to Antarctica when he was 88.
In addition to his wife, survivors include his daughters, Rachel and Olivia, and grandchildren Noah, Henry, Lauren and Owen.
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