When I watch DVDs I tend to imdb them. I just get curious. So while watching M*A*S*H* -- which I'd never loved, until this time around -- I discovered that its producer, Ingo Preminger, died about a month ago. Ingo was 95.
Ingo was not in the habit of producing films -- he was a literary agent. In particular, he was a literary agent who repped a lot of writers who'd been blacklisted by Hollywood. One of those guys was Ring Lardner, Jr., who had read this book by Korean war vet Richard D. Hooker Jr. and written the M*A*S*H* screenplay. But none of the first round of directors wanted to make the film, the story goes, and they ended up with Robert Altman, who wanted the movie to be about Vietnam, so he purged all concrete references to Korea. Then most of the rest of the script disappeared as his actors were encouraged to improvise, as in all Altman's films. Ring Lardner was furious, but he got an Oscar for the screenplay, and Altman always credited him with creating the insubordinate tone of the characters and the film. Ingo must have been stuck in the middle, and it couldn't have been comfortable.
In Naming Names, Victor Navasky lauds Ingo Preminger for bucking the studios and dodging the red baiters to get work for his clients, like Lardner and Dalton Trumbo, under pseudonyms and with other writers providing an authorial front. Maybe Ingo had an informed perspective on the paranoid, hateful rhetoric of the Red Scare -- he was born in Austria and fled as the Nazis came to power. He eventually moved to California where his brother Otto was directing movies and started his agent thing. Which ended up being, in his case, a mighty challenging, brave thing.
Hats of to Ingo. We could use more of you these days.