Born: May 17, 1918; Died: September 27, 2013.
AC Lyles, who has died aged 95, began his career in movies as an office boy for Cecil B DeMille and rose to become a film producer and the longest-serving employee at Paramount Pictures. He never officially retired and latterly worked as a goodwill ambassador for the studio. His last producer credit was on the television Western series Deadwood and he kept an office on the studio lot right up until his death.
He was born Andrew Craddock Lyles Jr in Jacksonville, Florida, and first fell in love with the movies when he saw the Oscar-winning silent movie Wings at his local cinema. He asked for a job at the cinema and worked handing out flyers but it was when Adolph Zukor, the founder of Paramount, came to town that the young Lyles seized his chance. He asked Zukor for a job and the film magnate told him to keep in touch. Lyles took him at his word and wrote to Zukor every week for several years. When the young hopeful finally arrived in Hollywood in 1937, he went to the doors of Paramount and said Zukor was expecting him. Zukor remembered who he was and put him to work in the mail room. Later, he was assigned to Zukor's office to run errands and take visitors round the studio.
As the person who delivered their fan letters, Lyles became quickly friendly with most of the major stars of the era, including Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour and William Holden. He was extremely close with Jimmy Cagney and Ronald Reagan.
Recognising the potential of Lyles' breezy manner, the studio executives promoted him to the publicity department and before long he became publicity chief for Pine-Thomas, Paramount's B-picture arm. The studio was named after Bill Pine and Bill Thomas, dubbed the Dollar Bills for their skill at making movies on the skimpiest of budgets.
After Pine-Thomas folded in the 1950s, Lyles convinced Paramount's bosses he could produce saleable films with well-known if slightly faded stars on budgets the Dollar Bills had taught him how to squeeze.
His celebrity contacts would become invaluable when Lyles started producing such Westerns as The Young and the Brave, Stage to Thunder Rock, Apache Uprising and Johnny Reno in the 1960s.
He persuaded friends such as Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Jane Russell, Pat O'Brien and Dana Andrews to appear in his films, even talking Cagney into directing one of them, the gangster movie, Short Cut to Hell. It marked Cagney's only directing effort, and Lyles remarked later: "I don't think he liked telling actors what to do."
Other production credits included Law of the Lawless, Young Fury, Red Tomahawk, Arizona Bushwhackers, Fort Utah and Hostile Guns. He was also credited as associate producer on nine episodes of the hit TV series Rawhide.
Later, as Paramount's ambassador of goodwill, Lyles appeared regularly at film festivals, colleges and nostalgia conventions to talk about the studio's legacy and its current product.
He also welcomed visiting notables to the studio and conducted tours of the Paramount lot, which he knew intimately.
During the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr, he served as a Hollywood liaison, organising celebrities to attend White House events.
Reagan's widow, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, said she was saddened to learn of Lyles' death, calling him a studio legend. He had kept in touch with her and her family over the years, Mrs Reagan said, serving on the White House Advisory Council on Private Sector Initiatives when her husband was president. "I will miss him and his colourful - and truly memorable -stories of Hollywood in her heyday," she said.
Lyles worked well into his 90s, operating out of a suite once occupied by Fred Astaire and bedecked with scores of photographs of the many stars he could call friends. It was only in the past year that he stopped going to the office regularly.
Until then he would leave home for the office every weekday morning, dressed in a custom-made suit with handkerchief in the breast pocket. He would arrive at the studio in his mint-condition 1955 Ford Thunderbird.
"I love my job," he said in a 1998 interview. "If the studio was open on Saturday and Sunday, I'd be there on those days too."
Throughout his life, Lyles went just by the initials AC, explaining that was the name his father had used as well. It was an old Southern tradition, he said, to just use initials rather than a full name.
He was married to Martha French in 1955, in a ceremony attended by Reagan and Cagney, among others. He is survived by Martha.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.