Paramount Producer A.C. Lyles Dies at 95

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A.C. Lyles

His affiliation with the studio spanned more than 85 years.

Publicist and producer A.C. Lyles, who in recent years has served as the studio ambassador at Paramount Pictures, died Friday. He was 95.

Lyles had worked for Paramount since he was 10 years old, longer than any other employee in the history of that studio.

He first went to work more than 80 years ago in the Paramount mailroom when Adolph Zukor ran the studio. He was a publicist for many years before making a transition to producing.

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Andrew Craddock Lyles was born in Jacksonville, Fla., and first met Zukor while he was working as an usher at the Florida Theater, then owned by Paramount. He finally saved enough money to move to Los Angeles in 1938.

After two years in the mailroom, Lyles moved to the publicity and advertising department. He eventually supervised advertising.

He started producing in 1967 with Short Cut to Hell, the only movie ever directed by James Cagney. He went on to produce low-budget movies, mostly Westerns.

After leaving the studio for a short time, he returned to work in television. He worked on ABC's Afterschool Specials and the CBS Festival of Lively Arts for Young People as well as the A Christmas for Boomer special in 1979.

When Paramount produced a series of NBC World Premiere movies in the 1970s, Lyles was a producer on several films, including Flight to Holocaust. As recently as 2006, he was credited as a consulting producer on the HBO Western Deadwood.

Lyles was feted in 1990 by the Boy Scouts of America with its Jimmy Stewart Good Turn Award, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1992, he was honored by Hollywood publicists as a founding member of their guild.

Lyles was seen in numerous documentaries over the years, including Why Be Good? Sexuality & Censorship in Early Cinema and Hollywood Renegade. In his final years, Lyles served as an ambassador at large for the studio, often meeting with visitors and dignitaries who came to the Hollywood lot.

Actor-producer Scott Baio worked near Lyles at Paramount and called him “a dear friend. I will miss his advice and his wonderful stories. He was a true gentleman.”

Paramount CEO Brad Grey sent the following memo to the studio's staff on Monday:

To: Paramount Employees

From: Brad Grey
It is with deep sadness I share the news that A.C. Lyles passed away this past Friday evening. A true institution at Paramount, A.C. was a man of great talent and elegance, and a legend in our industry.
Proud to be referred to as “Mr. Paramount,” A.C. was the longest serving employee in our studio’s history and a direct link to one of Hollywood’s most storied eras. For a remarkable 85 years, A.C. made Paramount his home, made us his family and always took a moment to share a story that reminded us just how fortunate we are to do the work that we do here.
It was often noted that A.C. had the shortest resume in Hollywood history: Paramount 1928 – 2013. He began his career at Paramount at the age of 10 distributing bumper stickers and handbills for Paramount’s Florida Theater. As a teenager, A.C. wrote a letter every Sunday for years to Adolf Zukor, founder and head of Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, until he secured a job at the studio.
It was the era of Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope. A.C. made friends with them all and rose quickly. By the age of 19, A.C. became Publicity Director and worked on over 70 pictures. He then moved onto producing, first as an associate producer on The Mountain, released in 1954, and then as a full producer on Short Cut to Hell, released in 1957. He went on to produce nine episodes of the TV show Rawhide and a slate of westerns for Paramount in the 1960s through his own production company. His most recent work was as Consulting Producer on the HBO TV series Deadwood, created by David Milch.
Two years ago, when asked during an interview about the longevity of his career and continuing to serve as Paramount’s Ambassador of Good Will, A.C. said: "I can't imagine not doing it. It's just a great, great life." It will be hard to imagine our lot without A.C.
Our thoughts and prayers are with A.C.’s wife, Martha, during this time.
(In lieu of flowers, his family is requesting donations be made to the MPTF Country House Fund.)