“Saul Zaentz, who parlayed a successful career in the music business into a Oscar-winning second act as an independent movie producer, died Friday at his home in the San Francisco area from complications of Alzheimer’s,” The Hollywood Reporter writes.
He was 92.
The three Oscars that Zaentz won were all “best picture” awards — for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975, Amadeus in 1984 and The English Patient in 1996.
Zaentz had quite a batting average when it comes to such honors. His profile on IMDB.com says he produced only nine films over about a 30-year movie-making career.
People magazine says Zaentz “took on classy productions, specializing in complex literary adaptations that Hollywood studios generally find too intricate to put on film.” (The magazine also says he was involved in a 10th film, a low-budget 1972 production called Payday, though IMDB’s records do not list Zaentz as a producer on that movie.)
Zaentz came to films after what the Los Angeles Times describes as a “feisty” career in the music industry:
“Before turning to the movies, Zaentz was a music industry executive who worked at Fantasy Records, which he later bought. He worked with a number of prominent bands, including Creedence Clearwater Revival.
“Zaentz had a reputation for being litigious and ended up suing Creedence lead singer John Fogerty a number of times over the rights to their catalog.”
The Hollywood Reporter adds this about that chapter of Zaentz’s life:
“Zaentz was involved in acrimonious litigation with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty over song rights. Zaentz’s contention was with two songs on Fogerty’s 1985 Centerfield album for Warner Bros. Records. Zaentz argued that the song ‘Zanz Kant Danz’ was a slur on him. He filed suit, and Fogerty responded by changing the first word to ‘Vanz.’
“Zaentz filed a second lawsuit, contending that Fogerty used the same chorus for ‘The Old Man Down the Road’ as ‘Run Through the Jungle,’ which Fogerty had recorded while on Zaentz’s Fantasy Records label. Fogerty ultimately prevailed after surreal courtroom testimony that, essentially, absolved him of plagiarizing himself.”