Harry Saltzman

Harry Saltzman

Harry Saltzman

Harry Saltzman was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, to Jewish immigrants Abraham Saltzman and Dora Horstein. Raised in Saint John, his father, a horticulturalist from Kozienice, Poland, moved the family to Canada in 1910. Harry, along with his siblings Minnie, Florence, Isadore, and David, later moved to Cleveland, Ohio. At 15, Harry left home and eventually joined a circus at 17, traveling across Europe.

Saltzman studied political science and economics in Paris in 1932 and worked in vaudeville, claiming to have assisted French director René Clair. In 1942, he signed with Fanchon & Marco Enterprises in the U.S., aiming to sign big acts like the Ritz Brothers. Managing The Gilbert Brothers’ Combined Circus in 1943, he saw a busy season across Eastern America.

During World War II, Saltzman enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force but was medically discharged. He then joined the U.S. Psychological Warfare Bureau, serving in North Africa and London. Post-war, he helped establish UNESCO’s film division with Lin Yutang, focusing on the Chinese Civil War, but left due to ideological differences. Saltzman spent a year with the French Ministry of Reconstruction before returning to the entertainment industry.

Post-war, Harry Saltzman settled in Paris, joining the circle of the renowned writer Colette. He scouted talent for stage, TV, and film productions across Europe, eventually finding more success as a stage play producer. He relocated to the United States in the 1950s. Together with Rhea Fink, Saltzman founded Mountie Enterprises Corporation in the late 1950s, focusing on coin-operated hobby horses.

Coin operated hobby horse

These machines, first introduced in children’s departments of stores, proved lucrative, with Saltzman claiming a daily income of $35 per horse (equivalent to $413.30 in 2023).

Saltzman made his mark as a production supervisor on “Robert Montgomery Presents” and as the producer of “Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion.” Judith Krantz, who briefly dated Saltzman, admired him for his vivid imagination, despite declining his marriage proposal. In the mid-1950s, Saltzman moved his family to the UK, producing theatre and venturing into film with “The Iron Petticoat” (1956). He co-founded Woodfall Film Productions, producing notable social realism dramas like “Look Back in Anger” (1959) and “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” (1960). Director Anthony Mann commented on Saltzman’s shift from artistically significant to commercially successful films. 

In 1961, inspired by the James Bond novel “Goldfinger,” Saltzman pursued the film rights to the character. He and Albert R. Broccoli co-founded Danjaq, S.A. in 1962, managing the James Bond screen rights and establishing Eon Productions for Bond films. Danjaq’s name combines the first names of Broccoli’s and Saltzman’s wives, Dana and Jacqueline. 

Albert Broccoli (L) and Harry Saltzmam (R)
Film producer Albert R. Broccoli (1909 – 1996, left) with co-producer Harry Saltzman (1915 – 1994) in their shared office, circa 1965. (Photo by Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Saltzman also established Lowndes Productions in 1958, utilizing it for film production from 1965. This company produced eight films, including three Harry Palmer movies with Michael Caine: “The Ipcress File” (1965), “Funeral in Berlin” (1966), and “Billion Dollar Brain” (1967). Lowndes Productions’ final film was released in 1988, and the company dissolved in 1992. 

The Ipcress File Movie Poster

Harry Saltzman, aside from James Bond and Harry Palmer films, produced notable works like “Battle of Britain” (1969) and “Call Me Bwana” (1963), one of the few non-Bond films by Eon Productions. He also planned a film about Canadian Métis leader Cuthbert Grant. 

In 1969, Saltzman took a substantial loan of 70 million Swiss francs (US$40,000,000) from the Union Bank of Switzerland. By 1970, he gained control of Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation, but financial troubles soon followed. In 1972, he was compelled to sell 370,000 shares of Technicolor stock to repay the Swiss loan. Technicolor’s stock value plummeted under Saltzman’s tenure, leading to his eventual ousting and several lawsuits.

A 1978 court ruling revealed that Saltzman and Broccoli had intended to dissolve Danjaq, S.A. in 1972, but Broccoli reneged. Facing financial crises, Saltzman tried to sell his 50% stake in the Bond franchise to Paramount Pictures in 1974. He was later ordered by the British High Court to pay significant legal fees.

Saltzman’s 1970s productions faced challenges. The science fiction musical “Tomorrow” with Olivia Newton-John was pulled, resulting in lawsuits. A planned film about dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, starring Rudolf Nureyev, was canceled due to financial overextension. His ambitious project “The Micronauts” with Gregory Peck and Lee Remick never materialized. In 1975, burdened by financial woes, Saltzman sold his share in Danjaq to United Artists, leading to a decline in his health and well-being.

In 1980, Saltzman bought H.M. Tennent Ltd., a theatrical production company, but gradually retreated from the film industry. He still achieved an executive producer credit for the film “Nijinsky” in 1980 and the 1988 co-production “Time of the Gypsies.” However, he dissolved H.M. Tennent in 1992.

Harry Saltzman passed away from a heart attack on September 28, 1994, in Paris. 

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