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Adios To A.C. Lyles

Leonard Maltin By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin October 1, 2013 at 12:56PM

Hollywood won’t be the same without the smiling presence of A.C. Lyles, who loved show business and the people in it. He never missed an opportunity to make a speech or salute an old friend.
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Mayor Eric Garcetti (then a City Council member) and fellow councilman Tom LaBonge present A.C. with a Los Angeles city proclamation at his 90th birthday party on the Paramount lot. Below the podium is a shot of a young, dashing A.C. Lyles with Dorothy Lamour and Lloyd Nolan, circa 1940.
Mayor Eric Garcetti (then a City Council member) and fellow councilman Tom LaBonge present A.C. with a Los Angeles city proclamation at his 90th birthday party on the Paramount lot. Below the podium is a shot of a young, dashing A.C. Lyles with Dorothy Lamour and Lloyd Nolan, circa 1940.

Contemporary writer-producer David Milch turned the tables on A.C. when he launched production of the HBO series Deadwood in 2004. Convinced that Lyles was the only man left in town who knew anything about making Westerns—he even worked as an associate producer on Rawhide for one season—Milch insisted that A.C. serve as a consultant for his series and sent a car to pick him up every day and take him to the show’s permanent location at Melody Ranch. He was in his 80s at the time and reveled in every minute of the experience.

He became an unofficial historian for Paramount Pictures, where he maintained an office long after he’d produced his last television show, but I got a particular kick out of asking him about subjects that were off the beaten path. Once, when I needed an anecdote for an article about cowboy sidekick Gabby Hayes I called on A.C. and naturally he came through: he’d presided over several publicity tours for Paramount releases in the early 1950s in which Gabby participated, and I got a good story for my piece. He once told me about taking flamboyant character actor Luis Alberni to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting!

Part of A.C.’s collection of James Cagney memorabilia—including tap shoes he wore in "Yankee Doodle Dandy."
Part of A.C.’s collection of James Cagney memorabilia—including tap shoes he wore in "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

He also took me to task for a piece I produced for Entertainment Tonight about shuttered movie theaters; he felt that it sent a negative message about the movie business. A.C. didn’t live in the past—quite the opposite—but he maintained an unfailingly positive outlook about the industry he loved and the promise of good things ahead. In his worldview there was no place for a discouraging word.

He may have seemed like an anomaly to some younger people at Paramount, a glad-handing throwback to an earlier day…but that was part of his charm. I’m going to miss him, and I know I’m not alone in that.

This article is related to: Journal, A.C. Lyles