September 29, 2016

Legendary Producer Ray Stark Honored at SCA

Chairman of the SCA Board Frank Price, Producer Hawk Koch, Producer
Marykay Powell, former agent/producer Jim Wiatt, Wendy Stark, Dean
Elizabeth M. Daley, and  Ray Stark's granddaughter Allison Gorsuch Corrigan.

On September 27th, the USC School of Cinematic Arts opened a three-day tribute  to legendary film producer, Ray Stark. Stark and his wife Frances were the benefactors of the School’s Peter Stark Producing Program, which they named for their late son. The opening evening featured a panel discussion about Stark’s work, followed by a screening of Funny Girl, held, appropriately, in the Ray Stark Family Theatre on campus.  The retrospective continued on the 28th and 29th with screenings of The Goodbye Girl and Steel Magnolias.

A Tribute to Ray Stark Panel Discussion, was moderated by former agent Jim Wiatt, who is a member of the SCA Board of Councilors. The discussion was affectionately filled with “Ray stories,” from Hawk Koch, former president of the Association of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences; Marykay Powell, producer and former President of Rastar Film; and Frank Price, former head of Columbia Pictures and Chairman of the SCA Board of Councilors. Richard Dreyfuss, who won an Academy Award in 1977 for his role in The Goodbye Girl sent a video tribute in which he credited Ray Stark for discovering him. 

Guests at the event included Ray Stark’s daughter Wendy Stark and granddaughter Allison Gorsuch Corrigan, as well as Larry Turman, Chair of the Peter Stark Producing Program.

Marykay Powell shared a story about facilitating dinner between Stark and Funny Girl star Barbra Streisand to discuss making a sequel to the original.  Stark and Streisand had a complicated relationship from the original production which Powell hoped could be patched up.  “They had an amazing relationship,” said Powell. “There was going to be a sequel to Funny Girl but she was still mad at Ray—all of those years later. I said, ‘Can we sit down? Just Barbra and Ray and me and figure this out so the world can have this film.’ It was one of the most amazing nights of my life. I got to be Freud.”

Powell explained that Stark and Streisand refused to speak to each other directly. Every bit of conversation had to go through her, even though Streisand and Stark were at the same table. “Ray would say, “Marykay, I gave this really great party for Barbra and she sat in the corner the whole time.’ and Barbra would say, ‘Marykay, Ray won’t understand that I was afraid of all of these people,’ and Ray would say, ‘Marykay, ask her how she can be afraid when she’s the biggest star in the world.’ At the end of dinner, I asked, ‘Have we concluded anything? Have we accomplished anything tonight?’ Barbra said, ‘No, I’m not finished. Let’s go into the living room.’ Five hours later, they left and we had solved nothing.”

Price said Stark was the most reliable producer he could work with when he made his risky transition from the lucrative world of television to the unstable world of film. “Motion pictures were appealing to me but Columbia Pictures was in terrible shape,” said Price. “I wanted to do motion pictures so I went to the peculiar company and I met Ray at that point. I regarded and still regard Ray as an incredible force in my life. We were friends. He was my mentor. We weren’t always in agreement but I enjoyed the arguments. I had a lot of producers but I made a judgement fairly quickly that Ray was absolutely outstanding.”

Koch said Stark saw one of his films and called him into an emergency meeting. At the meeting Stark offered him a job and wouldn’t take no for an answer, “He asked me ‘How did you make those movies?’ I told him it was passion and I fought like crazy. Ray said, ‘You’re gonna do the same thing for me.’ and I was hired. I didn’t have a choice. Ray was unbelievably smart and he had great taste. Ray also knew how to cultivate relationships better than anybody I ever knew.”

Ray Stark was one of the most successful and prolific independent film producers in postwar Hollywood. His credits as a producer include The World of Suzie Wong (1961), West Side Story (1961), The Misfits (1961), Lolita (1962), The Night of The Iguana (1964), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), Funny Girl (1968), The Goodbye Girl (1977), The Toy (1982), Annie (1982), and Steel Magnolias (1989). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences recognized him with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in the 1980 Oscar ceremony. On a more personal note to Trojans, Ray Stark endowed and founded the Peter Stark Producing Program; one of the seven divisions at the School of Cinematic Arts. Ray Stark was born in New York in 1915 passed away in 2004,at eighty-eight.