Joe Hyams, Legendary Publicist at Warner Bros., Dies at 90

Joe Hyams - Publicity - P 2017
Courtesy of Dolores Hyams

He was especially close with Clint Eastwood, working with him on all of his films from 'Every Which Way but Loose' through 'Mystic River.'

Joe Hyams, who spent 45 years at Warner Bros. and was the last of an influential genre of Hollywood publicity executives, died Wednesday in Los Angeles, a family spokesperson announced. He was 90.

Hyams managed the film campaigns of such legends as Clint Eastwood, Barbra Streisand, Stanley Kubrick, Francois Truffaut, Robert Redford, Federico Fellini, Oliver Stone, William Friedkin and John Wayne.

He maintained a particularly close relationship with Eastwood, priding himself on being present for the first day of production on every movie the Oscar-winning filmmaker shot during that period and shepherding the finished projects through film festivals, premieres and awards campaigns.

"Joe was an incredibly smart, intuitive and talented executive who played a crucial role in making my movies succeed," Eastwood said in a statement. "More important, he was a great friend, and I will miss him."

Hyams worked with Eastwood on all of his films from 1978's Every Which Way but Loose through 2003's Mystic River.

Former Warner Bros. chairman Robert Daly nicknamed Hyams the "Dean of Publicity." 

"To me, he was the dean of what he did," said Daly. "Joe definitely marched to his own drum, but he was also a terrific company man. When he was into a movie, he was working with the filmmakers all the way through."

Added former Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairman Rob Friedman: "Joe was a lone gun. He was always out front with a film, seeing it through all aspects of not just publicity, but marketing. The department was basically his support staff."

The oldest of four children, Hyams was born on Sept. 21, 1926, on the Lower East Side of New York City. He graduated from Seward Park High School and joined the U.S. Marines toward the end of World War II.

He began his career as a reporter for the Daily Mirror newspaper in New York, then became a unit publicist at Columbia Pictures. His first films were From Here to Eternity (1953) and On the Waterfront (1954), both Academy Award winners for best picture.

During this time, he became friends with Burt Lancaster and, in 1957, Hyams moved his family to Los Angeles to work for the actor's production company, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster. 

When the Hyams family returned to New York, he worked on Bus Stop (1956), starring Marilyn Monroe, and The Alamo (1960), the latter for Wayne's Batjac Productions.

Hyams was hired by Jack Warner in 1960 as Warner Bros.' national advertising and publicity director, initially based in New York and later L.A. He became a vp publicity in 1970, was promoted to senior vp 17 years later and in 1992 was named executive vp special projects.

Among the notable films that Hyams worked on at Warner Bros. were My Fair Lady (1964), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Woodstock (1970), The Exorcist (1973), Blazing Saddles (1974), A Star Is Born (1976), Chariots of Fire (1981), JFK (1991), Unforgiven (1992), Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and Mystic River.

He retired from Warner Bros. in 2005.

"Joe was sought out and beloved by artists and management alike. ‘What does Joe think?' they would ask," Sid Ganis, former president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, recalled in a statement.

"Joe had a basic elegance that was completely natural, whether he was in a tuxedo at an opening, his deep tan glowing, or at a senior Warner Bros. management meeting in loafers, no socks, washed out T-shirt and worn jeans, advising and guiding us through the tricky problem of the day. A magnificent man!"

Survivors include his wife Dolores, whom he married in 1972; children Nina, Melissa and Robert; sisters Janet and Barbara; brother Arthur; and grandchildren Michael and Sam.

Funeral arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.