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OBITUARIES : Sam Weisbord, Former Talent Agency Chairman, Dies

Times Staff Writer

Sam Weisbord, chairman emeritus of the William Morris Agency, died Wednesday of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

He was 74 and had been with the world’s oldest and largest talent agency for 57 years. It was the only job he ever had.

Weisbord was the fourth Morris executive to die in the past nine months. Abe Lastfogel, one of the early employees of William Morris--the former vaudeville theater owner who founded the firm in 1898--was 86 when he died last August. Stanley A. Kamen was executive vice president and a member of the board of directors at his death in February at age 60. Morris Stoller, chairman and chief operating officer died in March, also at Cedars, also of cancer and also at 74.

Weisbord joined Morris in 1929 as a trainee, a practice that dates to the beginnings of the agency. Many, if not all among the earliest corps of Morris executives, had started in the mail room. Weisbord became Lastfogel’s assistant in 1931 and moved to Los Angeles in 1945, after two years in the Army, and became, successively, senior agent, member of the board of directors, executive vice president and then president and chief executive officer.

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He and Stoller were co-chairmen of the board at Stoller’s death.

Over the years, his clients included Al Jolson (who received $100 for his first television show in the early days of the medium), Eddie Cantor, Elvis Presley, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra.

Weisbord helped persuade Columbia Pictures to hire a then-fading Sinatra at $1,000 a week for “From Here to Eternity.” The salary represented a significant drop from the $250,000 weekly stipend Sinatra had once commanded, but the film came as the singer’s professional activities were at an ebb.

The picture and Sinatra’s subsequent supporting actor Oscar were credited with quickly renewing interest in him as an entertainer.

Served on Boards

Weisbord was a member or former member of the board of directors at Cedars, the Menninger Foundation in Kansas, the Motion Picture and Television Fund and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Survivors include his sister, Mildred Granoff, and several nephews and nieces.

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Services will be held at noon Friday at Temple Beth-El in Los Angeles.


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