Prolific film, TV, and entertainment producer Wolper tours his life, helped by veteran coauthor Fisher (Hard Evidence, 1995, etc.).
In the late 1940s, Wolper quit college to join buddy Jimmy Harris in forming Flamingo Films, a distribution company that sold product to all the new television stations opening around the country and clamoring for time fillers. There were no networks yet, and Hollywood, fearing TV’s takeover, would sell the stations no movies. However, Wolper and Harris did manage to buy the TV rights to an independently made film, The Adventures of Martin Eden starring Glen Ford and Evelyn Keyes, which they sold to countless stations; it became the first feature film ever broadcast on TV. Lack of product soon forced Flamingo to create original programming. In 1951, the company signed a $30-million, 31-year deal with National Comics for the TV rights to Superman, filmed 104 episodes at $20,000 each with George Reeves as the wrinkly-costumed Man of Steel, got Kellogg’s cereals to sponsor and sell the show everywhere outside the majors. Superman is still running. Older readers will have a nostalgia feast as Flamingo buys the rights from Universal for the Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and Don Winslow serials. Wolper’s interests grew, and he moved into producing, buying some rare Russian space footage for his first documentary, The Race for Space. Yet he always remained the visionary entrepreneur who has the ideas and assembles the talents but is himself not an artist. Among his colossal successes: Roots and The Thorn Birds on TV, staging the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the films Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and L.A. Confidential, and the creation of the template for what would became A&E’s Biography series. Even so, declares Wolper, art collecting brings him his greatest rewards.
Fascinating for entertainment industry buffs, and nicely revealing of an entrepreneur with a great heart as well as a golden touch.