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A.C. Lyles (born May 17, 1918) is an American movie producer for Paramount Pictures who produced westerns in the 1950s and 1960s, and has been a major player in Hollywood for the past 78 years.


Early years

Lyles was born in Jacksonvillemarker, Floridamarker. He remembers seeing the film Wings on his 10th birthday at a theater owned by Paramount in his native Jacksonville, FLmarker. "I just fell in love with the picture and the people who made it. I had a great admiration for Adolph Zukor [the movie mogul who founded and ran the studio]." Lyles quickly went to the theater manager, asked for a job, and began distributing bumper stickers and handbills, working his way up to usher in three months.

Working at the theater created an opportunity to meet Zukor himself four years later when the studio head came to visit the theater. Lyles says he was certain that his brief introduction to Zukor as an adolescent would ultimately lead to working at the studio in Hollywoodmarker. Zukor told Lyles to finish high school before pursuing his Hollywood dreams. Having already gotten a job at a Paramount theater, the young Lyles was determined to work at the actual Paramount Studios lot that he began writing letters to Zukor every week.

Fate also intervened when Lyles introduced himself to Gary Cooper when the star came to Jacksonville on his way to Miami. Lyles told him about his weekly letters, although he hadn't yet received any response. The star gave the boy a note to include in his next letter: "I am looking forward to A.C. Lyles being with us at the studio." That led to a response from Zukor's secretary, and Lyles began writing letters to her as well.


After graduating from high school, Lyles traveled across country with $28 in his pocket to pursue his dream of working at Paramount. When he arrived in Hollywood, Lyles found that his persistence had paid off; Zukor hired Lyles as an office boy making $15 per week. Lyles quickly began making friends with as many people as possible on the lot, including Bing Crosby and Cooper.

One of Lyles new friends was James Cagney's sister, who had a contract with Paramount at the time. She told Lyles that Cagney wanted to meet him, and, after getting over the initial shock of being asked to meet the superstar, Lyles became friends with Cagney. Lyles would soon meet someone who would ultimately become bigger than Cagney. "There's a young fellow in town I want you to meet. You'll be inseparable," Lyles remembers Cagney telling him. The young fellow turned out to be Ronald Reagan, who would become one of Lyles's best friends. "We were so close. We were like brothers," he says.


Lyles was headed for success; at age 19 he became a publicity director and over the next decade he worked on more than 70 films. In 1954 he was associate producer on The Mountain, which starred Spencer Tracy, and in 1957 he became a full producer on Short Cut to Hell, starring Cagney. It was also in the 50s that Lyles married his wife, Martha. He also served as associate producer on the TV series Rawhide, which gave Clint Eastwood his breakthrough role.

Lyles in the 1960s found a niche producing low budget color Westerns populated by well-known stars who were no longer popular at the box office but still had their fans. When Paramount noticed it didn't have a Western on its production schedule, Lyles provided Stage to Thunder Rock. The popularity of the film led Paramount to ask Lyles how many more he could make. Lyles replied "Five a year". After Buckskin, Lyles produced Rogue's Gallery and a film of Russell Braddon's science fiction novel Year of the Angry Rabbit entitled Night of the Lepus, featuring a cast of Hollywood favorites terrorized by giant rabbits.

He recently worked as a consultant on HBO's Deadwood, created by David Milch (NYPD Blue), whom Lyles said "is as close to being a genius as anyone I know....If you listen to his dialogue, it's like Shakespeare."

Lyles has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker in front of the El Capitan Theatremarker and a building named in his honor at Paramount Studios.



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