A.C. Lyles, 95; was veteran Hollywood producer

A.C. Lyles reached toward a portrait of Ann Miller during a funeral for the dancer and actress in 2004.
Reed Saxon/Associated Press
A.C. Lyles reached toward a portrait of Ann Miller during a funeral for the dancer and actress in 2004.

LOS ANGELES — A.C. Lyles, who rose from mail boy to producer at Paramount Pictures and became the studio’s longest-serving employee during a tenure that lasted more than three-quarters of a century, has died at age 95.

Mr. Lyles, whose most recent title with Paramount was ambassador of goodwill, died last Friday at his Los Angeles home, longtime family friend Ben Wheeler said Monday.

A lifelong movie fan, Mr. Lyles was 18 when he arrived in Hollywood from his native Florida, going to work in Paramount’s mailroom in 1937. There, as the person who delivered their fan letters, the outgoing Mr. Lyles became friendly with most of the major stars of the era, including Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, and William Holden.


‘‘He was extremely close with Jimmy Cagney and Ronald Reagan,’’ Wheeler recalled Monday.

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His celebrity contacts would become invaluable when Mr. Lyles started producing such Westerns as ‘‘The Young and the Brave,’’ “Stage to Thunder Rock,’’ “Apache Uprising,’’ and ‘‘Johnny Reno’’ in the 1960s.

He persuaded friends such as Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Jane Russell, and Dana Andrews to appear in his films, even talking Cagney into directing one of them, the gangster movie, ‘‘Short Cut to Hell.’’

It marked Cagney’s only directing effort, and Mr. Lyles remarked later, ‘‘I don’t think he liked telling actors what to do.’’

Studio executives had recognized Mr. Lyles’s breezy manner years earlier and promoted him to the publicity department.


Soon he was named publicity chief for Pine-Thomas, Paramount’s B-picture arm. The studio was named for Bill Pine and Bill Thomas, dubbed the ‘‘Dollar Bills’’ for their skill at making movies on skimpy budgets.

After Pine-Thomas folded in the 1950s, Mr. Lyles convinced Paramount’s bosses he could produce salable films with well-known if slightly faded stars on budgets the Dollar Bills had taught him how to squeeze.

Other production credits included ‘‘Law of the Lawless,’’ “Young Fury,’’ “Red Tomahawk,’’ “Arizona Bushwhackers,’’ “Fort Utah,’’ and ‘‘Hostile Guns.’’

He was also credited as associate producer on nine episodes of the hit TV series ‘‘Rawhide.’’

His last producer credit was for the 2005-2006 HBO Western series ‘‘Deadwood.’’


As Paramount’s ambassador of goodwill, Mr. Lyles appeared regularly in his later years at film festivals, colleges, and nostalgia conventions to talk about the studio’s legacy and its current product. He also welcomed visiting notables to the studio and conducted tours of the Paramount lot, which he knew intimately.

He worked well into his 90s, operating out of a suite once occupied by Fred Astaire and bedecked with scores of photographs of the many stars that Mr. Lyles had befriended. It was only in the past year, Wheeler said, that he stopped going to the office regularly.