AP

Albert Ruddy, Oscar-winning producer of ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ dies at 94

May 28, 2024, 3:01 PM

Canadian-born film and television producer Albert S. Ruddy, UK, 7th July 1972.  (Photo by Evening S...

Canadian-born film and television producer Albert S. Ruddy, UK, 7th July 1972. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Albert S. Ruddy, a colorful, Canadian-born producer and writer who won Oscars for “The Godfather” and “Million Dollar Baby,” developed the raucous prison-sports comedy “The Longest Yard” and helped create the hit sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes,” has died at age 94.

Ruddy died “peacefully” Saturday at the UCLA Medical Center, according to a spokesperson, who added that among his final words were, “The game is over, but we won the game.”

Tall and muscular, with a raspy voice and a city kid’s swagger, Ruddy produced more than 30 movies and was on hand for the very top and very bottom, from the “Godfather” and “Million Dollar Baby” to “Cannonball Run II” and “Megaforce,” nominees for Golden Raspberry awards for worst movie of the year.

Otherwise, he had a mix of successes such as “The Longest Yard,” which he produced and created the story for, and such flops as the Arnold Schwarzenegger thriller “Sabotage.” He worked often with Burt Reynolds, starting with “The Longest Yard” and continuing with two “Cannonball Run” comedies and “Cloud Nine.” Besides “Hogan’s Heroes,” his television credits include the movies “Married to a Stranger” and “Running Mates.”

Nothing looks better on your resume than “The Godfather,” but producing it endangered Ruddy’s job, reputation and his very life. Frank Sinatra and other Italian Americans were infuriated by the project, which they feared would harden stereotypes of Italians as criminals, and real-life mobsters let Ruddy know he was being watched. One night he heard gunfire outside his home and the sound of his car’s windows being shot out.

On his dashboard was a warning that he should close the production, immediately.

Ruddy saved himself, and the film, through diplomacy; he met with crime boss Joseph Colombo and a couple of henchmen to discuss the script.

“Joe sits opposite me, one guy’s on the couch, and one guy’s sitting in the window,” Ruddy told Vanity Fair in 2009. “He puts on his little Ben Franklin glasses, looks at it (the script) for about two minutes. What does this mean “fade in?” he asked.'”

Ruddy agreed to remove a single, gratuitous mention of the word “mafia” and to make a donation to the Italian American Civil Rights League. Colombo was so pleased that he urged Ruddy to appear with him at a press conference announcing his approval of the movie, a gathering that led to Ruddy’s being photographed alongside members of organized crime.

With the stock of parent company Gulf & Western dropping fast, Paramount fired Ruddy, only to have director Francis Coppola object and get him rehired. In the end, mobsters were cast as extras and openly consulted with cast members. Ruddy himself made a cameo as a Hollywood studio guard.

“It was like one happy family,” Ruddy told Vanity Fair. “All these guys loved the underworld characters, and obviously the underworld guys loved Hollywood.”

With a cast including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Robert Duvall, “The Godfather” was a critical and commercial sensation and remains among the most beloved and quoted movies in history. When Ruddy was named winner of the best picture Oscar at the 1973 ceremony, the presenter was Clint Eastwood, with whom he would produce “Million Dollar Baby,” the best picture winner in 2005. Upon the 50th anniversary of “The Godfather,” in 2022, Ruddy himself became a character. Miles Teller played him in “The Offer,” a Paramount+ miniseries about the making of the movie, based on Ruddy’s experiences.

“Al Ruddy was absolutely beautiful to me the whole time on ‘The Godfather’; even when they didn’t want me, he wanted me,” Pacino said in a statement. “He gave me the gift of encouragement when I needed it most and I’ll never forget it.”

Ruddy was married to Wanda McDaniel, a sales executive and liaison for Giorgio Armani who helped make the brand omnipresent in Hollywood, whether in movies or at promotional events. They had two children.

Born in Montreal in 1930, Albert Stotland Ruddy moved to the U.S. as a child and was raised in New York City. After graduating from the University of Southern California, he was working as an architect when he met TV actor Bernard Fein in the early 1960s. Ruddy had tired of his career, and he and Fein decided to develop a TV series, even though neither had done any writing.

Their original idea was a comedy set in an American prison, but they soon changed their minds.

“We read in the paper that … (a) network was doing a sitcom set in an Italian prisoner of war camp and we thought, ‘Perfect,'” Ruddy later explained. “We rewrote our script and set it in a German POW camp in about two days.”

Starring Bob Crane as the wily Col. Hogan, “Hogan’s Heroes” ran from 1965-71 on CBS but was criticized for trivializing World War II and turning the Nazis into lovable cartoons. Ruddy remembered network head William Paley calling the show’s concept “reprehensible,” but softening after Ruddy “literally acted out an episode,” complete with barking dogs and other sound effects.

While Fein continued with “Hogan’s Heroes,” Ruddy turned to film, overseeing the low-budget “Wild Seed” for Brando’s production company. His reputation for managing costs proved most useful when Paramount Pictures head Robert Evans acquired rights to Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel “The Godfather” and sought a producer for what was supposed to be a minor, profit-taking gangster film.

“I got a call on a Sunday. ‘Do you want to do The Godfather?'” Ruddy told Vanity Fair. “I thought they were kidding me, right? I said, ‘Yes, of course, I love that book’ — which I had never read.”

KSL 5 TV Live

AP

First responders arrive at Oaks Park for a ride that is stuck with multiple riders in Portland, Ore...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews have rescued 28 people after they were stuck for about half an hour dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park in Oregon.

23 hours ago

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 12: The Olympic rings are seen on the Eiffel Tower ahead of the start of the P...

Tom Nouvian, Associated Press

Unsafe levels of E. coli found in Paris’ Seine River less than 2 months before Olympics

Water in the Seine River had unsafe elevated levels of E. coli less than two months before swimming competitions are scheduled to take place in it during the Paris Olympics, according to test results published Friday.

1 day ago

The OnlyFans logo is seen on a computer monitor in this posed photo, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in St....

Associated Press

Former Nashville officer arrested after allegedly participating in an adult video while on duty

A former Nashville police officer has been arrested for two counts of felony official misconduct after law enforcement officials say he allegedly participated in an adult video while on duty.

1 day ago

FILE - A bump stock is displayed in Harrisonburg, Va., on March 15, 2019. The Supreme Court will he...

Lindsay Whitehurst

Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era ban on bump stocks, gun accessories used in 2017 massacre

Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era ban on bump stocks, rapid fire gun accessories used in 2017 Las Vegas massacre.

1 day ago

A tourist jumps from a rock into the blue-green water of Havasu Falls in Havasu Canyon, Arizona, Ap...

Scott Sonner and Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Dozens of hikers became ill during trips to waterfalls near the Grand Canyon

Dozens of tourists say they became ill after visiting a popular Arizona tourist destination known for its towering blue-green waterfalls.

2 days ago

FILE: Elected officials and representatives from U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams unveil t...

Associated Press

Possible 2026 World Cup training camps may include Salt Lake City or Herriman

Possible team training camps for the 2026 World Cup include a site in Salt Lake City among several other U.S. cities.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Albert Ruddy, Oscar-winning producer of ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ dies at 94