Sad news to pass along from Hollywood: veteran Hollywood producer and former studio head John Calley passed away on Monday night at the age of 81. You may not know his name, but Calley was responsible for some of the best films of the '60s and '70s during his tenure as vice president -- and later president -- of Warner Bros. studios. "Under Calley, Warners became the class act in town," wrote Peter Biskind in his 1998 book 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood.' Ahead, the five key films from Calley's Warner Bros. career.
Gallery | John Calley: 5 Great Movies
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
One of John Calley's hallmarks was developing close relationships with directors -- without attempting to impose his will on them. The late Stanley Kubrick was one of those filmmaking titans, and he teamed with the Calley-led Warner Bros. for his most controversial film, 'A Clockwork Orange.'
Mean Streets (1973)
As Peter Biskind recalled in the aforementioned 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,' Calley bought Martin Scorsese's breakout film 'Mean Streets' hours after a Paramount executive halted a screening ten minutes into the film. "Don't waste my time," said the Paramount exec to Scorsese, "go sell it to John Calley." He did. The rest is history.
The Exorcist (1973)
'Exorcist' director William Friedkin initially bristled at some editing suggestions made by Calley during post-production. "I went back into the cutting room and looked at it the way he suggested, and I must say it felt better that way. So, I recut [the scenes]." Guess Calley knew what he was doing; 'The Exorcist' grossed almost $200 million during its initial release.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
The controversial comedy was almost too controversial for Warner Bros. -- studio executives were wary of the flagrant use of the n-word, as well as the famous campfire flatulence scene. Said Calley to EW in 2000: "Some of the people within the studio were very disapproving and critical of it.'' Thankfully, not disapproving enough to squash the seminal comedy; 'Blazing Saddles' grossed almost $120 million during its wildly successful theatrical run.
If superhero films had an origin story, it would be 'Superman.' The smash film was an anomaly when it came out in 1978 -- one that might not have even happened had Calley not found director Richard Donner making commercials and purchased his company.