from the 2/3/02 New York Times:
"SO the Brooklyn Academy is mounting a tribute to John Houseman (it runs from Feb. 15 to March 10 at the BAM Rose Cinemas). To which I can only respond, well, of course, but surely there is always a tribute running to this extraordinary and entertaining man, one of the small number of people who raised the term ''movie producer'' to a level of honor?
As many recall, John Houseman was the man in the Smith Barney commercials who seemed to have the moral weight of the British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone behind him when he said of the investment firm: ''They make money the old-fashioned way. They earn it.''
He was shameless about those commercials (because he knew he did them splendidly). And it pleased him that late in life the one-time mollifier of other actors' egos had become so assured an on-screen performer in ads and that he had won a supporting-actor Oscar as the imposing law professor in ''The Paper Chase'' (1973). But there had always been an actor inside Houseman as he made his way in a shifting world. How else would someone born Jacques Haussmann (of the family that laid out some of the grand boulevards of Paris), become not just John Houseman, an apparent English gentleman, but also the chief of radio propaganda for the United States Government during World War II?
''I was conceived in the second year of this century,'' he wrote in 1972, ''and legitimized five years after that. By then I was speaking English with my mother, French with my father and his friends, Romanian with the household and German with a visiting governess. Two of my first four birthdays were celebrated on board the Orient Express between Paris and Bucharest, the city where I was born on Sept. 22, 1902, of a Jewish-Alsatian father and a British mother of Welsh-Irish descent.''
That is the start of ''Run-Through,'' the first of three volumes of autobiography, one of the essential works of show business history. It is remarkable for the way Houseman is always the attentive, helpful figure at the shoulder of some difficult, neurotic or impossible artist, who is deserving of his best creative help. John Houseman had a degree of vanity and pomp in his own style, but it was proper and merited. He did things well in his own way. He was a fine actor; an eloquent writer and a good teacher, but above all he adored those in whom he saw great talent. He would do anything for them that a man of the world, with at least four languages, inexhaustible nerve, a minor English public school education (Clifton) and cast-iron taste could manage.
Just look at what the Brooklyn series has to offer: ''They Live by Night'' (1949), starring Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell, the debut film by Nicholas Ray, an artist so self-destructive, so bound up in his problems, so steeped in gloom that it would have been no surprise if he never made a single picture. But Houseman helped bring into being the film noir with the most tender, unflawed love story. A few years later, with Ray again, he produced ''On Dangerous Ground,'' a somber study of a rogue cop, starring Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan, an actor Houseman cherished.
He is also the man who produced Vincente Minnelli's 1956 portrait of Van Gogh, ''Lust for Life,'' with Kirk Douglas as the tortured painter. To this day, there is not another movie about a painter so true to the artworks yet so momentous as entertainment. A few years before that, with Minnelli and Mr. Douglas, he had produced ''The Bad and the Beautiful,'' which stands only a half-step behind ''Sunset Boulevard'' as a love-hate letter to Hollywood. He produced the 1953 version of ''Julius Caesar'' that has Marlon Brando, John Gielgud, James Mason, Deborah Kerr and Greer Garson, and helps keep their diverse styles on the same page. He produced John Frankenheimer's movie of William Inge's ''All Fall Down'' -- one of the early works of Warren Beatty in which he was searching out how nasty he could be.
Houseman was the producer of ''The Blue Dahlia,'' a 1946 Alan Ladd-Veronica Lake picture, with a script by Raymond Chandler. He also made the wondrous CinemaScope adventure film ''Moonfleet'' (1955), directed by Fritz Lang, and ''Executive Suite'' (1954), written by Ernest Lehman and directed by Robert Wise, one of the first movies to see the drama in big business.
No one necessarily would argue with you if you decided that these were just eight very good (or very, very good) pictures. Equally, I believe it would be generally consented to by film critics that ''Letter From an Unknown Woman'' (1948) is a perfect film, a masterpiece. It was, commercially, probably the least successful of Houseman's films. But a noble producer learns to ignore such vagaries of fate. Houseman knew that he had the director Max Ophuls at his greatest, prepared to recreate Vienna on a Hollywood sound stage, in a bittersweet love story, taken from Stefan Zweig and beautifully written by Howard Koch. He cast Louis Jourdan and Joan Fontaine (a woman with whom Houseman had once had the taste and courage to be in love), and he let the cameras roll. If you doubt me, see that one film at the BAM.
Anything else? Well, yes, of course there is, though ''Citizen Kane'' is a film on which John Houseman received no credit. In 1935, in New York, he had met Orson Welles: Welles was 20, Houseman 31. It's possible that the older man fell literally in love with the huge kid. At the very least, he recognized his profuse talent and the way in which Welles could easily become his own worst enemy. And Houseman decided to be Welles's friend, manager, producer, whatever it took, even if it all ended in betrayal.
You may judge by the terrible (if radiant) chaos of Welles's later career just how effective Houseman was. They were the leaders of the Mercury Theater, and within a few years they did stage productions of ''Voodoo Macbeth,'' ''Doctor Faustus,'' ''The Cradle Will Rock,'' ''Julius Caesar'' and ''Heartbreak House.'' All the while, the Mercury boys (including Joseph Cotton, William Alland, Paul Stewart and Ray Collins) were doing radio plays, too, with Houseman as the producer. It was Houseman who engaged Howard Koch to do a script for something called ''The War of the Worlds.'' It was Houseman who helped keep Welles going, despite 20-hour days, a private life out of control and the serene ability to inspire the loathing (as well as the love) of all who worked for him.
It was John Houseman who went out to Hollywood with Welles when the fat offer came. And it was Houseman who took the blame, one lethal night, when Welles, driven to fury by his inability to fix on a project, started throwing heating dishes around a restaurant. Their row was never mended. But then it was Houseman who lived up at the ranch in Victorville, north of Los Angeles, keeping Herman Mankiewicz off booze while he wrote the script for what became ''Citizen Kane.''
And it was Houseman, out of love, admiration, understanding and a little bit of mischief, who helped teach Mankiewicz how far this Charles Foster Kane of theirs resembled George Orson Welles. Not just a producer and a friend, but a hero."