Al Pacino leads tributes to Oscar-winning producer

Albert S Ruddy, the Oscar-winning producer of The Godfather, has died aged 94.

Ruddy died “peacefully” on Saturday at the UCLA Medical Centre in Los Angeles, according to a spokesperson, who added that among his final words were: “The game is over, but we won the game.”

He produced more than 30 films including The Godfather, Million Dollar Baby and The Longest Yard.

His television credits included Hogan’s Heroes and Walker Texas Ranger.

With a cast including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Robert Duvall, The Godfather was a critical and commercial sensation and remains among the most beloved and quoted movies in history.

“Al Ruddy was absolutely beautiful to me the whole time on The Godfather; even when they didn’t want me, he wanted me,” Al Pacino said in a statement.

“He gave me the gift of encouragement when I needed it most and I’ll never forget it.”

James Caan (centre right) as Sonny Corleone with his co-stars in the Godfather - Al Pacino, Marlon Brando and John Cazale
Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan and John Cazale as the Corleone family in The Godfather

When Ruddy won the best picture Oscar in 1973, the presenter was Clint Eastwood, with whom he would produce Million Dollar Baby, his second best picture winner in 2005.

Upon the 50th anniversary of The Godfather’s release, in 2022, Ruddy himself became a character on screen.

Top Gun: Maverick and Whiplash star Miles Teller played him in The Offer, a Paramount+ miniseries about the making of the film, based on Ruddy’s experiences.

Born in Montreal in 1930, Ruddy moved to the US as a child and was raised in New York City.

After graduating from the University of Southern California, he was working as an architect when he met actor Bernard Fein in the early 1960s.

Ruddy had grown bored with architecture, and he and Fein decided to develop a TV series, even though neither had done any writing.

Producer Albert S. Ruddy holds his Oscar as he makes his acceptance speech at the 45th Annual Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 27, 1973. Ruddy produced "The Godfather," which won the best picture of the year award. (AP Photo)
Ruddy collecting the best picture Oscar for The Godfather in 1973. Pic: AP

Their original idea was a comedy set in an American prison, but they soon changed their minds.

“We read in the paper that a network was doing a sitcom set in an Italian prisoner of war camp, and we thought, ‘Perfect’,” Ruddy later explained.

“We rewrote our script and set it in a German POW camp in about two days.”

Starring Bob Crane as the wily Colonel Hogan, Hogan’s Heroes ran from 1965-71 on CBS but was criticised for trivialising the Second World War and turning the Nazis into lovable cartoons.

Ruddy remembered network head William Paley called the show’s concept “reprehensible”, but changed his mind after Ruddy “literally acted out an episode”.

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Ruddy then turned to film, with his reputation for managing costs prompting Paramount Pictures head Robert Evans to hire him to produce Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel The Godfather for what was supposed to be a minor, profit-taking gangster film.

“I got a call on a Sunday. ‘Do you want to do The Godfather?'” Ruddy told Vanity Fair.

“I thought they were kidding me, right? I said, ‘Yes, of course, I love that book’ – which I had never read.”

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Ruddy was married to Wanda McDaniel, a sales executive and liaison for Giorgio Armani.

They had two children.

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