Stanley Chase, producer of the famed 1950s off-Broadway production of “The Threepenny Opera” and films such as sci-fi cult favorite “Colossus: The Forbin Project,” died Tuesday at a nursing home in Santa Monica. He was 87.
He had been in declining health, said his wife, Dorothy Chase.
His 1954 production of “The Threepenny Opera”, with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, was not only a major hit but also a springboard for numerous performers who went on to long careers in film and TV. Among the more than 700 actors who appeared in the show during its more than 2,600 performances were Bea Arthur (who was in the opening night cast), Ed Asner, Leonard Nimoy,Estelle Parsons, Jerry Orbach and Carroll O’Connor.
The show also greatly boosted the popularity of singer and actress Lotte Lenya, Weill’s widow who was in the original 1928 German production.
Chase was a student at New York University when he fell in love with the show upon hearing a 78-rpm recording of that original production. He had planned on being a writer.
“But he loved other people’s work so much,” Dorothy Chase said, “and it turned out he had a knack for producing.”
The off-Broadway production, with English translation by noted composer Marc Blitzstein, even produced a hit song, “Mack the Knife,” that helped ensure its longevity.
“Every time business started to slow down, something would happen,” Chase said in a 1989 Los Angeles Times interview. “First it was Louis Armstrong’s recording of ‘Mack the Knife,’” then Bobby Darin’s, then Ella Fitzgerald’s.”
Though Tony Awards are normally only for Broadway productions, Chase and co-producer Carmen Capalbo were given a “special” 1956 Tony for their show.
Chase went on to produce several Broadway shows, including Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” in 1957.
Stanley Chase was born May 3, 1927, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He and Dorothy Rice, as she was known when she was a top model for Christian Dior and other designers, were married in 1955.
They moved in 1966 to Los Angeles, where he produced episodes of “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre” on television.
His best-known movie project was the chilling “Colossus: The Forbin Project, about a super-computer that networks with another super-computer (foreshadowing the Internet) and plots to rule humans.
Chase worked for years to make a movie of “The Threepenny Opera.” He finally got it done in 1989 as “Mack the Knife,” with Menahem Golan directing.
His only immediate survivor is his wife.