Former Paramount President Frank Yablans Dies at 79

Frank Yablans

He also worked as the COO of MGM/United Artists, produced 'North Dallas Forty' and 'Congo' and adapted 'Mommie Dearest'

Former Paramount Pictures president Frank Yablans has died, his son, ICM Partners agent Eddy Yablans, told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 79.

He died peacefully at his Los Angeles home of natural causes on Thanksgiving Day, his son said.

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During his tenure at Paramount, Yablans worked with production chief Robert Evans, and the studio released Oscar best-picture winner The Godfather (1972) and its first sequel, as well as Serpico (1973), Paper Moon (1973), Chinatown (1974) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Later, Yablans served as vice chairman and COO of MGM/United Artists under Kirk Kerkorian.

Yablans produced and contributed to the screenplays for the football drama North Dallas Forty (1979) and Mommie Dearest (1981), starring Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. His producing credits also include Silver Streak (1976), The Other Side of Midnight (1977), The Fury (1977), The Star Chamber (1983) and Congo (1995).

A native New Yorker and son of a taxi driver, Yablans worked at Warner Bros. and Disney before being named executive vp sales at Paramount in the late 1960s. His marketing flair helped turn Arthur Hiller's tragic romantic drama Love Story (1970) into a blockbuster and led to him being named studio president in 1971 at age 31. 

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With MGM/UA mired in debt, Kerkorian turned to Yablans in 1983. 

"I felt this company really needed me,' " Yablans told The New York Times soon after he was hired. "No company in history was so top-heavy with nonproductive people overseeing the bankruptcy of an organization. It was a company desperately in need of professional leadership."

Yablans helped the company regain its footing, but exited in March 1985 with five years remaining on his contract. A few months earlier, Kerkorian had named Alan Ladd Jr. president of United Artists, putting the veteran filmmaker on equal footing with Yablans.

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Soon after Congo, based on a Michael Crichton novel, became a summer blockbuster for Paramount, Yablans, CAA co-founder Rowland Perkins and director Michael Campus formed Adventuress Prods., which entered into a three-year, first-look deal at the studio.

He launched Promenade Pictures in 2003 and produced the animated The Ten Commandments, as well as the 2005-07 HBO drama Rome.

Survivors also include son Robert, daughter Sharon, four grandchildren and longtime companion Nadia Pandolfo

Twitter: @mikebarnes4