Jerry Weintraub died recently and if you don’t know who he is then I bet you at least know his movies. Weintraub was the Hollywood producer responsible for the Karate Kid franchise, the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Behind The Candelabra, Vegas Vacation, and a host of others. Throughout his career Weintraub also promoted musical acts the likes of Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Led Zeppelin, and again…a host of others.
Within show business Jerry Weintraub was known to everyone and was relevant for 50 years. He was known by his friends as a fierce worker and a tenacious professional but in the wake of his passing the airways have been filled with messages of love and stories of his charity and cheekiness. The more you delve into Jerry’s life story the more you realise that he was the man behind so many men, the guy who set the stage for others to perform on.
It’s important to know about people like Jerry Weintraub because it reminds you that it takes more than just talent to make a star, it takes a giant network of Jerry Weintraubs who turn the cogs of the industry and enable talented individuals to shine.
Scanning the multitude of articles which have been written about Jerry’s death over recent days there’s been some reoccurring terms and phrases which have been used to sum up the business man behind show business, such as: an industrial heavyweight, old school, relentless, kind, and – friend.
George Clooney released a statement shortly after learning of Weintraub’s passing
‘In the coming days there will be tributes, about our friend Jerry Weintraub. We’ll laugh at his great stories, and applaud his accomplishments. And in the years to come the stories and accomplishments will get better with age, just as Jerry would have wanted it. But not today. Today our friend died. To his family and friends, Amal and I send our love. And to those who didn’t know him we send our deepest sympathy. You would have loved him.’
It wasn’t the height of Weintraub’s success which impressed but the depth of his resilience through a tumultuous career. In the 1960’s Jerry was one of the biggest names in Hollywood and his ability to wheel and deal saw him amass fortune’s and climb the ladder of success.
But his successes were well balanced by his failures. In the mid 1980’s Weintraub had talked his way into heading up the film and television studio “United Artist”. The studio had been struggling at the time so Jerry found over half a billion dollars of company investment to see it get back on its feet. After only months, countless millions had been spent with little quality to be found in any of the films which were in production. The result was a quick and decisive dismissal from United Artist and a public spat with financier Kirk Kerkorian who was quoted as saying “Weintraub was talented at spending money, but not at making movies.”
Following this particularly public career disaster Weintraub decided to start his own studio (again with almost half a billion dollars of corporate investment) and headed up Weintraub Entertainment Group. But after accumulating at list of flops in an impressively short period of time the studio went bankrupt and saw Jerry fall to the bottom of the industry.
However, in his tenacious style Jerry Weintraub got back up, kept working, and when the dust settled he put together one of the most financially profitable trilogies of all time – Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen – which made almost $1.2 Billion dollars worldwide and saw Jerry return to the top of the industry and doing what he did best – producing films.
This is only a snap shot of his life of course, there was in fact 50 years of ups and downs and triumphs and failures; simply too many to mention in one article, or even a hundred articles. But through all of it Jerry persevered, he made a few bitter enemies but many more life-long friendships.
In an industry where trends come and go and take much of the ‘in talent’ with them, Weintraub managed to not only stay in the game but spend much of his time on top of it. Through reading interviews and hearing anecdotes and watching the Jerry Weintraub documentary ‘His Way’ one is really able to get a feel for the man who was Jerry Weintraub. It becomes apparent that he was someone who could cut through the bullshit whilst spinning it at the same time.
Old school class seemed to permeate from this man as if he was the last standing member of the infamous Rat Pack. He kept that golden age culture of 1960’s Hollywood alive well into the new century and in the words of one time client and long time friend Frank Sinatra – He did it his way.