(p. B13) Sidney Sheinberg, an irascible Universal Studios executive who discovered and nurtured Steven Spielberg, putting “Jaws” into production and helping to turn Hollywood into a blockbuster-focused business, died on Thursday [March 7, 2019] at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif.
. . .
Mr. Sheinberg was for much of his career the forthright top deputy to Lew Wasserman, the chairman of MCA, a conglomerate that encompassed Universal. The ultimate mogul, Mr. Wasserman defined power in Hollywood in the decades after World War II.
But Mr. Sheinberg, openly intimidating as president and chief operating officer, kept the gears turning. When the two men left MCA in 1995, Mr. Sheinberg had worked for the company for 36 years, the last 22 as president.
During that time he helped transform Universal into an international entertainment giant, complete with a sprawling theme park empire.
. . .
“Sheinberg dealt with all people like a battering ram: Do it his way or get out of the way,” Dennis McDougal wrote in the 1998 biography “The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden History of Hollywood.”
Most important, Mr. Sheinberg discovered Mr. Spielberg. It was 1968 and the director, in his early 20s, had just completed a short film, “Amblin’,” a love story about hitchhiking hippies. Based on what he saw, Mr. Sheinberg put Mr. Spielberg under contract and gave him a job directing television shows. An episode of “Marcus Welby” was one of the first. In 1971 came “Duel,” Mr. Spielberg’s thrilling TV movie about a commuter terrorized by a truck driver.
With a line that has come to epitomize loyalty in the often fickle movie business, Mr. Sheinberg told his protégé at the time: “A lot of people will stick with you in success. I’ll stick with you in failure.”
Mr. Sheinberg, who could be as tender as he was prickly, was the one who allowed Mr. Spielberg to make “Jaws,” giving him a budget of $3.5 million (about $17 million in today’s money). A problem-plagued shoot pushed the cost to more than twice as much.
But Mr. Sheinberg, developing a father-son relationship with Mr. Spielberg, continued to support the film, which went on to become the prototype for the wide-release summer blockbuster.
. . .
When he opened the first Universal theme park in Orlando, Fla., in 1990 — in a race against Disney, which was building a movie-themed park that is now called Disney’s Hollywood Studios — Mr. Sheinberg and his team incorporated one of Disney’s mouse-ear hats into the “Jaws” ride.
The ears bobbed in the bloody water.
For the full obituary, see:
Brooks Barnes. “Sidney Sheinberg, 84, Dies; Universal Studios Leader Who Discovered Spielberg.” The New York Times (Saturday, March 9, 2019): B13.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date March 8, 2019, and has the title “Sidney Sheinberg, a Force Behind Universal and Spielberg, Is Dead at 84.” The online version says that the page number of the New York edition was D7. I cite the page number in my National edition.)
The biography of Wasserman, mentioned above, is:
McDougal, Dennis. The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden History of Hollywood. revised ed. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 2001.