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On this Day in Movie History March 28, 1907: Irving Paul “Swifty” Lazar Born

Irving Paul “Swifty” Lazar (March 28, 1907 – December 30, 1993) was a talent agent and deal maker, representing both movie stars and authors.

Born Samuel Lazar in Brooklyn, New York, he graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1931. While practicing bankruptcy law during the early 1930s, he negotiated a business deal for a vaudeville performer and realized the income potential for acting as an agent.

He moved to Hollywood in 1936 but maintained a presence in New York until after World War II when he moved to Los Angeles permanently. After putting together three major deals for Humphrey Bogart in a single day, he was dubbed “Swifty” by Bogart. The moniker stuck but was a name he actually disliked.

In addition to Bogart, Lazar became the agent representing the top tier of celebrities, including Lauren Bacall, Truman Capote, Cher, Joan Collins, Noël Coward, Ira Gershwin, Cary Grant, Moss Hart, Ernest Hemingway, Gene Kelly, Madonna, Walter Matthau, Larry McMurtry, Vladimir Nabokov, Clifford Odets, Cole Porter, William Saroyan, Irwin Shaw, President Richard Nixon and Tennessee Williams.

During World War II, Lazar, with Benjamin Landis, suggested to the U.S. Army Air Forces that it produce a play to encourage enlistment and to raise funds for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. The Air Forces commanding general, Henry H. Arnold, agreed and the play Winged Victory was written by Moss Hart and produced by Hart and Lazar. A film version was produced during the same period.

Lazar was an executive producer (with Bernie Brillstein) of John G. Avildsen’s Neighbors (1981), starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, and he was an associate producer on two television miniseries, The Thorn Birds (1983) and Robert Kennedy & His Times (1985).

Lazar died in 1993, aged 86, from complications stemming from diabetes. At the time of his death, Lazar was working on his autobiography, Swifty: My Life and Good Times, which was completed by Annette Tapert and published by Simon & Schuster in 1995.

Birthdays
1912 – Frank Lovejoy (actor: House of Wax, Strategic Air Command; died Oct 2, 1962)

1921 – Dirk Bogarde (Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde) (actor: The Damned, Death in Venice, The Vision, A Bridge Too Far, Night Flight from Moscow; died May 8, 1999)

1924 – Freddie Bartholomew (Frederick Llewellyn March) (actor: Anna Karenina, Captains Courageous, David Copperfield, Little Lord Fauntleroy; died Jan 23, 1992)

1943 – Conchata Ferrell (actress: L.A. Law, Hearts Afire, A Peaceable Kingdom, McClain’s Law, Hot L Baltimore, E/R, B.J. and the Bear, The Buccaneers, True Romance, Mystic Pizza, Edward Scissorhands, Deadly Hero)