Remembering Legendary Canadian-American Producer Albert S. Ruddy

Cinema lost a creatively and historically important figure recently, as Albert S. Ruddy passed away on May 25th at the age of 94.

Ruddy was born in Montreal, Quebec, to Jewish parents, but was consequently raised in New York. After graduating with a degree in architectural design in 1956 Ruddy designed homes for a construction company in New Jersey, which eventual led to him meeting the legendary and highly influential Warner Bros. chief Jack L. Warner, who was impressed by Ruddy and offered him a job, which was surely one of the most important turning points in his life.

Ruddy would later join Universal Television, before leaving when Marlon Brando Sr., father of the famous actor, hired the up-and-comer to produce his first film, 1965’s Wild Seed. What many don’t know is in that same year Ruddy also co-created the classic sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, which was very successful and ran on CBS for six seasons. Ruddy would go on to produce two more films going into the 1970s, comedy-dramas Little Fauss and Big Halsy and Making It

Then, in 1972, Ruddy’s third production, The Godfather, released, and suddenly he became one of the foremost producers in Hollywood, and indeed the world.

Ruddy had been announced as the film’s producer in 1970, before director Francis Ford Coppola was even brought onboard. The film was initially met with resistance by the Italian mob in particular, with the producer’s car even reportedly being shot up, with a note left on the dashboard instructing him to “shut down the movie – or else.” However, Ruddy managed to earn the trust of certain mobsters, as well as the Italian-American Civil Rights League, by holding screenings for their insights and working with Joseph Colombo and his son Anthony to produce a film that didn’t stereotype Italians, even going so far as to remove words such as “mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” from the script entirely. The result was one of the greatest and most influential movies in the history of cinema, and for his efforts Ruddy won his first Academy Award for Best Picture.

Ruddy did not return to produce the sequel, The Godfather Part II, but that didn’t slow down the producer extraordinaire, as he produced more notable films in the years that followed, such as Coonskin (1975) and The Cannonball Run (1981), and even had a hand in writing some of the movies he produced, like The Longest Yard (1974), Matilda (1978), Megaforce (1982), and Cannonball Run 2 (1984).

Then, in 2004 Ruddy once again struck Oscar gold with 2004’s Clint Eastwood-directed Million Dollar Baby, which, along with Best Picture, also won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor for the performances of Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman respectively, amongst other nominations. It was also the first film Ruddy had produced since 1996, yet despite riding high off another majorly successful film that is considered amongst the greatest of this century, not including executive producing credits, Ruddy only produced four more films in the years since, with his last role as producer being on yet another Clint Eastwood feature, 2021’s Cry Macho.

While Ruddy will be sorely missed by cinema, his legacy lives on through the films he wrote and produced during his illustrious career.

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