Irving Allen (November 24, 1905 – December 17, 1987) was a theatrical and cinematic producer and director. He won an Academy Award in 1948 for producing the short movie Climbing the Matterhorn. In the early 1950s he formed Warwick Films with partner Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and relocated to England to leverage film making against a subsidy offered by the British government. Through the 1950s they each became known as one of the best independent film producers of the day, as the two would sometimes work in tandem, but more often than not on independent projects for their joint enterprise producing multiple projects in a given year. Born as Irving Applebaum in Lemberg (Austro-Hungary), he entered film as an editor at Universal, Paramount and Republic in 1929. During the 1940s, he made a number of superb shorts, including the Academy Award-nominated Forty Boys and a Song 1941, which he directed. His short films often won more acclaim than his low-budget features. In the late 40s, Allen started concentrating more fully on being a producer.
In the early 50s, he led Warwick Films as the ‘name producer’, making films in both the USA and England, with Albert R. Broccoli something of a junior partner slowly emerging from Allen’s hefty shadow, despite their joint ownership and close affection. In 1957-1958, his partnership with Broccoli was strained both by Broccoli’s family health crises (His second wife became terminally ill, soon after adopting one child and with a newborn) and to a lesser extent their disagreement over the film potential of the James Bond novel series. Broccoli was very interested, believing the novel series could lead to a high quality series of films, and Allen was not, eschewing the potential of Broccoli’s vision of what became the action-adventure genre which was established by the advent of Bond in favor of older established forms. The pair met with Bond author Ian Fleming separately in 1957, Cubby from New York where he’d retreated to care for his wife, but in the London meeting with Fleming arranged by Broccoli, Allen all but insulted Fleming, declaring that Fleming’s novels weren’t even “good enough for television”. Broccoli mired in his troubles in New York, only knew that no deal had occurred until pre-production meetings with Fleming for which resulted with the decision to make the Dr. No, as the first film project by Eon Productions.
In 1959, captivated by the historical importance and a good script Warwick undertook the risky project of producing, funding, and distributing the controversial film The Trials of Oscar Wilde, which was released in 1960. Ahead of the times its frank unprejudiced depiction of homosexual issues ran into a ratings stone wall in the United States all but preventing any sort of advertising, and the company lost its large investment, Broccoli and Allen fell out, and the partnership became moribund, being dissolved officially in a 1961 bankruptcy liquidation. Thus the two partners each turned into solo producers in late 1960. Broccoli went onto found Danjaq, S.A. and Eon Productions with Harry Saltzman beginning the Bond films on a shoestring budget, and Allen occupied himself with other projects.
Some years later, Allen, with egg on his face, cast about for his own spy series. He acquired the rights to Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series. Allen was responsible for the Matt Helm series, The Silencers (1966), Murderers’ Row (1966), The Ambushers (1967), and The Wrecking Crew (1969). Allen’s Helm series had one major effect on Broccoli’s Bond movies (produced at the time in partnership with Harry Saltzman). To get Dean Martin on board as Matt Helm, Allen had to make the actor a partner in the enterprise. Dean Martin ended up making more money on The Silencers (1966) than Sean Connery made on Thunderball (1965). This did not go unnoticed by Connery.
- November, 24, 1905
- December, 17, 1987
- Encino, California
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
- Los Angeles, California