Ashley A. Boone Jr., one of the first black executives in major film studios, who marketed such blockbuster movies as “West Side Story” and “Star Wars,” has died. He was 55.
Boone died Sunday of pancreatic cancer in his Los Angeles home, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced Monday.
At the time of his death, the veteran film distributing executive was a marketing consultant for MGM and United Artists Pictures.
A native of Springfield, Mass., and educated in economics at Brandeis University, Boone became the first African American to hold top marketing positions at United Artists, 20th Century Fox, the Ladd Co., Columbia Pictures, Lorimar Pictures and finally MGM.
“We are saddened by the passing of a true professional,” said MGM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frank Mancuso.
When his friend Alan Ladd Jr. left 20th Century Fox in 1979, Boone rose from senior vice president for domestic marketing and distribution to succeed Ladd as one of two co-presidents. But after only five months, Boone left as well to follow Ladd to his new company.
Ladd praised Boone after learning of his death, noting that Boone had broken Hollywood’s executive color barrier through intelligence, talent and hard work.
Over his 30-year career, Boone was responsible for the innovative publicity and marketing campaigns of the James Bond films, “Star Wars” and its sequel “The Empire Strikes Back,” and the Academy Award-winning “West Side Story” and “Chariots of Fire.”
He also handled such films as “Julia,” “The Turning Point,” “Alien,” “The Right Stuff,” “Ghostbusters” and “Thelma and Louise.”
Boone managed international campaigns for such outstanding hits as “Lilies of the Field,” “Tom Jones” and the original “Pink Panther.”
He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences along with his sister, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, senior vice president of publicity at Paramount. They were the first brother and sister to serve concurrently.
In the mid-1970s, Boone earned a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University and taught for eight years at USC’s film school.
In addition to his wife, Boone is survived by his companion, Mark Bua; his father, Ashley Boone Sr., and stepmother, Doris Boone; another sister, Velma B. Fahrer; a brother, Richard T. Boone, and several nieces and nephews.
At Boone’s request, no services are scheduled.
The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to the United Negro College Fund.