Martin Baum, an old-time New York theatrical talent agent who became a veteran voice of experience for the upstart Creative Artists Agency in the late 1970s and who brought to the firm such established star clients as Sidney Poitier and Peter Sellers, has died. He was 86.
Baum died Friday at his home in Beverly Hills, the agency announced. The cause was not given.
"To those of us in his CAA family, Marty was a hero," the agency's partners said in a statement. "He was not only a brilliant agent, but a generous mentor to so many."
Since the late 1940s, Baum's clients included Bette Davis, Richard Attenborough, Richard Harris, Julie Andrews, Blake Edwards, Joanne Woodward, Cliff Robertson, Maggie Smith, Red Buttons, Gene Wilder, Bo Derek, John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Rock Hudson, Dyan Cannon and Carroll O'Connor, among others.
CAA founding partners Michael Ovitz, Ron Meyer, Michael Rosenfeld Sr., Rowland Perkins and Bill Haber invited Baum to join CAA in 1977, two years after the ambitious young guns left the William Morris Agency en masse. They coveted Baum's A-list talent roster, but they also saw his value as a shrewd deal-maker.
Baum was known as a "packager," someone who brought together actors, directors, writers and others he represented and then delivered the bundled group to a studio for a film production. One of his early film successes was gathering Poitier, director Ralph Nelson and screenwriter James Poe — all Baum clients — for "Lilies of the Field" in 1963.
And he knew another side of the business.
From 1968 to 1971, Baum had been president of ABC Pictures, the television network's motion picture division. He was responsible for such films as "Cabaret," "Straw Dogs" and "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"
As the first head of CAA's motion picture department, he brought credibility as well as an ability to scrutinize projects as a studio executive would.
Baum got his start in the entertainment business in his native New York City. Born March 2, 1924, he served in the Army during World War II. After returning from military duty, he became a stage manager — but the shows kept flopping, he told a Times reporter in 1969.
"Finally, we opened a show in which it seemed everyone lost money," Baum said. "I looked around to see just who had made money in this particular disaster. Only the actors and their agents. So I decided to became an agent."
In 1948, he and another agent, Abe Newborn, formed the Baum-Newborn Agency and began to turn a profit. They sold the firm to General Artists Corp., and in 1960 Baum moved to Los Angeles as the head of GAC's motion picture department. After GAC, Baum took a similar position with the Ashley Famous Agency and then formed his own firm, which later merged with CAA.
At his CAA office in Century City, Baum displayed the Academy Award statuette his client Gig Young won as best supporting actor for the 1969 film "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" Before committing suicide in 1978, Young indicated that he wanted the Oscar to go to Baum, his friend and his agent, who had cast him as the dance-marathon promoter. Jennifer Young, the actor's daughter, sued for the rights to the statuette, but a judge ruled in Baum's favor in 1997. At the time, the agent said he planned to bequeath the Oscar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when he died.
Baum's wife Bernice died in 1997. Survivors include his girlfriend of 12 years, Vicki Sanchez; his daughter, Fern; his son, Rich; and three grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times