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Remembering A. C. Lyles

Posted Monday, Sept. 30 – 3:33 p.m.

(CNS) – No funeral services are planned for producer A.C.
Lyles, Paramount Pictures’ unofficial goodwill ambassador and a close friend of
Ronald Reagan, James Cagney and other Hollywood luminaries, his wife said
Martha Lyles said her husband of nearly 60 years died Friday evening at
their Bel-Air hilltop home. He was 95 and had been in failing health for the
past year or so.
The Cagneys and Reagans attended the couple’s 1955 wedding at the Little
Brown Church in the Valley, according to the producer’s widow, who said an
invitation-only memorial service for her husband will be held at a date and
location to be determined.
Nancy Reagan, who married her husband at the same church three years
before the Lyles tied the knot, said she was  “deeply saddened’ to hear of the
producer’s death.
“He was a Hollywood studio legend in every sense of the word – from
mailroom assistant and errand boy to movie and television producer, writer,
publicist, advisor, distributor, studio ambassador, the list goes on and on,’
the former first lady said.
“More than that, A.C. was a dear friend to both Ronnie and me for over
50 years,’ she said. “He served on the White House Advisory Council on
Private Sector Initiatives and along with his wife, Martha, gave back to the
community and this country in so many ways. I will miss him and his colorful –
and truly memorable – stories of Hollywood in her heyday.’
Paramount Chairman and CEO Brad Grey, in a memo sent to studio
employees, called Lyles “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,’ Grey wrote. “For a remarkable 85 years, A.C.
made Paramount his home, made us one of 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.’
Lyles’ association with Paramount – where he maintained a memorabilia-
filled office until his death – dates back eight decades. He was 10 years old
when he landed a gig handing out fliers for the Paramount-owned Florida Theater
in his native Jacksonville.
He quickly worked his way up to usher duties at the Florida theater,
where he would meet Adolph Zukor when the studio founder came to town. The
movie mogul advised the then-14-year-old Lyles to finish high school before
making his way to Hollywood.
Lyles, determined to realize his dream of working at Paramount, penned
weekly letters to Zukor while saving his money to come west, which he did with
$28 in his pocket after graduating high school.
“My whole life was writing Mr. Zukor every Sunday. I was quite obsessed
… He was the dean of movie moguls at the time,’ Lyles told an interviewer
in 2006. “I just wanted to make them (movies). I didn’t want to be in them.’
Lyles’ perseverance paid off when Zukor hired him as a $15-per-week
“office boy.’ He also did a stint in the mail room and at the age of 19
became the studio’s publicity director, working on more than 70 films before
seguing into producing.
He began as an associate producer on “The Mountain,’ released in 1954,
and three years later attained full producer status for the gangster drama
“Short Cut to Hell,’ the only movie directed by Cagney, who was responsible
for introducing him to Reagan when the future president was a young actor.
In 1959, he produced nine episodes of the television show “Rawhide,’
starring a young Clint Eastwood.
Westerns would prove to be his niche. Through his own production
company, he produced such titles as   “Raymie,’ “The Young and the Brave,’
“Law of the Lawless,’ “Town Tamer,’ “Waco,’ “Red Tomahawk’ and “`Young
Lyles kept at it into his late 80s, serving as a consulting producer on
the HBO series “Deadwood’ in 2006. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk
of Fame in 1988.
In his later years, he concentrated on his unofficial role as an
ambassador for Paramount and was often called upon to deliver eulogies at the
funerals of famous friends.
Lyles, who was an Air Force lieutenant in World War II, is survived by
his wife and a niece.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Motion Picture &
Television Fund’s retirement home and hospital.

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