'Threepenny Opera' Producer Stanley Chase Dies at 87

Courtesy of Everett Collection
Chase (center) with Maximilian Schell and Claire Bloom on 'Chrysler Theatre'

The Tony winner also produced the 1970 sci-fi film 'Colossus: The Forbin Project'

Stanley Chase, who produced the legendary 1950s off-Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera that featured the enduring hit song “Mack the Knife,” has died. He was 87.

Chase died Tuesday at a nursing home in Santa Monica, his wife Dorothy told the Los Angeles Times.

Chase also produced such films as The Hell With Heroes (1968) and Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), both directed by Joseph Sargent (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three), as well as Mack the Knife, a 1989 feature version of Threepenny Opera that was helmed by Menahem Golan and starred Raul Julia and Richard Harris.

The Brooklyn native also produced an ABC 1983 telefilm, Grace Kelly, which starred Cheryl Ladd as the actress turned princess.

His 1954 production of Threepenny Opera, with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, featured Bea Arthur, Charlotte Rae and John Astin in the original cast. Others to later appear in the production, which ran for more than six years, included Leonard Nimoy, Jerry Orbach and Carroll O’Connor.

The first “Mack the Knife” was heard in Berlin in 1928 in the original German production of Die Dreigroschenoper. Marc Blitzstein created new English lyrics and libretto for Threepenny Opera.

“Every time business started to slow down, something would happen,” Chase said in a 1989 L.A. Times interview. “First it was Louis Armstrong’s recording of ‘Mack the Knife,’ then Bobby Darin’s, then Ella Fitzgerald’s.”

Chase and co-producer Carmen Capalbo, a frequent Chase collaborator, were given a Special Tony Award in 1956 for their production.

In the late 1950s, Chase also produced the Broadway dramas The Potting Shed, a best play Tony nominee that was written by Graham Greene; Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten; and The Cave Dwellers, written by William Saroyan.

Later, Chase produced installments of Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre for NBC.

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