Martin Poll, 89; helped revive N.Y. film industry
NEW YORK - Martin Poll, who helped revitalize film production in New York in the 1950s and ’60s and later made his name in Hollywood, producing films like the Oscar-winning historical drama “The Lion in Winter,’’ died in Manhattan on April 14. He was 89. The cause was pneumonia, his son Jon said.
In 1956, after more than a decade working with his aunt Selma Tamber, a Broadway producer, Mr. Poll opened Gold Medal Studios in the Tremont section of the Bronx, on the site of what had been Biograph Studios, where silent-film stars like Mary Pickford, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, and Lionel Barrymore started their careers.
Gold Medal became one of the largest film studios - some said the largest - outside of Hollywood. Movies filmed there included “A Face in the Crowd’’ (1957), Budd Schulberg’s tale, directed by Elia Kazan, of a folk-singing bumpkin (Andy Griffith) who is turned into a media star; and Daniel Mann’s “Butterfield 8’’ (1960), the story of a Manhattan call girl (Elizabeth Taylor in an Oscar-winning performance), some of it shot on the streets of New York. The television series “Car 54, Where Are You?’’ and “The Naked City’’ were also filmed there. In his five years as head of the studio, Mr. Poll lobbied city officials to streamline the process by which the police and fire departments and other agencies approved shooting on location throughout the city.
In 1959 James L. Lyons, the Bronx borough president, proclaimed Mr. Poll “Borough Commissioner of Motion Picture Arts.’’ It was an unofficial title. Only in 1966 did Mayor John V. Lindsay create the Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting (now the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment), which promotes film production in the city.
Mr. Poll sold Gold Medal in 1961 and moved to Hollywood. Production at the Bronx site ceased in the 1970s.
Mr. Poll produced 11 movies and three television films and miniseries during his career, receiving the greatest acclaim for “The Lion in Winter,’’ starring Peter O’Toole as Henry II of England and Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitane, the wife he imprisoned. The film won Oscars for best actress (Hepburn), musical score, and adapted screenplay (from the Broadway play by James Goldman). Mr. Poll produced a television remake of the film in 2003 with Glenn Close and Patrick Stewart.
The tribulations of British royalty were also the subject of Mr. Poll’s 1993 four-hour NBC production of “Diana: Her True Story,’’ based on the best-selling book by Andrew Morton. Mr. Poll’s other screen credits include “Love Is a Ball’’ (1963), a romantic comedy starring Glenn Ford and Hope Lange, and “Sylvia’’ (1965), a drama about prostitution starring Carroll Baker.
In 1975 he was executive producer of Woody Allen’s “Love and Death,’’ in which Allen and Diane Keaton, as Boris and Sonja, engage in mock-serious philosophical debates at the time of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. And in 1981, Mr. Poll produced “Nighthawks,’’ with Sylvester Stallone as a New York police officer in pursuit of an international terrorist.
For Mr. Poll, that movie was a return to the streets of New York.
Besides his son Jon, he leaves his wife, the former Gladys Peltz; another son, Mark; a stepson, Tony Jaffe; and three grandchildren.