Eric Pleskow, Holocaust refugee and Oscar-winning producer, dies

Pleskow was the president of the United Artists studio when it took home the best picture Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Rocky” and “Annie Hall."

By BEN SALES/JTA
October 6, 2019 04:24
1 minute read.
Eric Pleskow, Holocaust refugee and Oscar-winning producer, dies

US film producer Eric Pleskow, former President of United Artists, awaits the opening session of the 18th Cairo International Film Festival November 28th. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Eric Pleskow, who escaped the Nazis to become a film executive whose movies won the Academy Award for best picture seven times, has died. He was 95.

Pleskow was the president of the United Artists studio when it took home the best picture Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Rocky” and “Annie Hall” in 1975, 1976 and 1977, respectively — an unprecedented three-peat for a movie studio.

Later, as the co-founder of Orion Pictures, he oversaw four more winners for top film: “Amadeus” (1984), “Platoon” (1986), “Dances With Wolves” (1990) and “Silence of the Lambs” (1991).

Pleskow was born Erich Pleskoff in Vienna in 1924. He escaped the city with his family in 1939 after the SS had seized their home, which was blocks away from Sigmund Freud’s office, according to The Washington Post.

After arriving in New York City, he briefly worked at a film company, and was later drafted into the U.S. Army, where he was tasked after the war with reviving a film studio in Bavaria. From there he was hired as an executive at United Artists’ foreign department.

Pleskow rose to become president of the studio in 1973, and raised its profile by working with directors such as Woody Allen and Jonathan Demme. He broke off to co-found Orion in 1978.

“I have a few Oscars in my apartment, and that’s dangerous,” he said in a 2014 interview with the Jewish Historical Society of Fairfield County, Conn. “I was short of breath the other night, a few weeks ago, and I had to call the ambulance. And they came in and they saw the Oscars and forgot why they came in.”


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