Studio exec David V. Picker, who gave The Beatles their big screen debut, has died aged 87.
Picker, who served as the head of United Artists, Paramount and Columbia for more than half a century, died at home in New York at the weekend.
The movie boss introduced the Beatles to Hollywood with the films A Hard Day’s Night and Help! and kickstarted the film career of comic Steve Martin.
He had colon cancer and died on Saturday night, said reports.
Picker is also credited with convincing author Ian Fleming that James Bond could make the leap from the written page to the cinema.
MGM Studios tweeted: “We are saddened to hear that a member of the United Artists family has passed away,” describing him as “a true visionary.”
Bond – played by Sean Connery – first appeared on screens in 1962’s Dr No; the first of 24 editions of the British spy series.
In 1964, a Hard Day’s Night saw The Fab Four move from the music charts into movies, with a loosely-scripted comic farce, and they followed it up with another spoof, Help!, the following year.
As well as helping to bring the Beatles and Bond to a US audience, Picker oversaw Midnight Cowboy, which was the only X-rated film ever (though the classification no longer exists) to win best picture at the Oscars.
Picker began his career at United Artists – the studio founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, in 1956.
He helped bring the comedy Tom Jones – starring the late Albert Finney to United Artists in 1963 and accepted the Oscar for best director on behalf of Tony Richardson
Picker also helped to launch Steve Martin’s movie career with 1979’s The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and The Man With Two Brains.
Sony chairman Tom Rothman, who used to work as Picker’s assistant said – via Variety: “David was the classiest man in our business.
“A true gentleman and a great film champion.”
He added: “Like many others, I owe the start of my career to him, and all of us at Columbia Pictures, benefit to this day from his accomplishments.
“Rest In Peace, old friend.”