de Rochemont, Richard

de Rochemont, Richard
(December 13, 1903–August 4, 1982)
   Best known as a central figure in the “March of Time” newsreel organization, Richard de Rochemont was producing a broader range of film projects by the early 1950s. Although not officially credited in any of STANLEY KUBRICK’s films, de Rochemont played an important role as a mentor early on in Kubrick’s career. They first met when, in 1950,Kubrick walked into de Rochemont’s Lexington Avenue office with a script in hand, an early version of what would become FEAR AND DESIRE, cowritten by his high school buddy, Howard Sackler. Richard de Rochemont and his associates were so impressed with the young man’s chutzpah that they unofficially took him under their wing. When Kubrick and Fear and Desire producer MARTIN PERVELER encountered problems with the American Federation of Musicians, concerning payment owed the union for the use of GERALD FRIED’s score, de Rochemont stepped in to help, lending Kubrick and Perveler enough money to placate the union. In January 1953, Kubrick and Perveler signed a deal with de Rochemont for finishing funds for Fear and Desire, giving de Rochemont 2 percent of Kubrick’s share of the film profits. Kubrick’s professional association with the man he referred to as “my good friend, Dick de Rochemont,” continued into the mid- and late 1950s. When the actor and producer Norman Lloyd needed a second unit director for his five-episode television series on Abraham Lincoln, de Rochemont recommended Stanley Kubrick. After screening Fear and Desire, Lloyd offered Kubrick the job, which he accepted. Richard de Rochemont’s interest in Kubrick continued, as he lent his name in Kubrick’s efforts to raise money for his second feature, KILLER’S KISS. Later, de Rochemont was one of a few associates who urged Kubrick to consider adapting VLADIMIR NABOKOV’s novel LOLITA to the screen.
   Richard de Rochemont, born in Massachusetts to French Huguenot parents, attended Cambridge Latin School and Williams College, and he graduated from Harvard College in 1928. He married Jane Louise Meyerhoff, who worked for Life magazine and also as a photographic stylist. Professionally, he started as a newspaper reporter for the Boston Advertiser, the New York American, and the New York Sun in the late 1920s, but soon moved into the nascent newsreel business with Fox-Movietone News in 1930. Four years later, he joined The March of Time—then headed by his brother Louis de Rochemont—where his first job was as an actor. “Meals were my salary on that first job. My brother Louis was in charge of shooting a story . . . called ‘Speakeasy Street’—yes, 52nd Street—and the main scene was in Twenty-One. Louis wanted to show a raid on the club, and because his budget was a little too tight for enough actors, I put on a policeman’s uniform and helped stage the raid. The club liked the publicity, so Jack and Charley let the crew and actors eat all their meals at Twenty-One. ”
   As European managing editor of March of Time—a post he held until 1940—de Rochemont produced episodes exploring such topics as prewar Nazi Germany; strife between Finland and Russia before the trouble had escalated into battle; and the Vatican’s attitude toward the war, including footage of parts of the Vatican never before seen by outsiders. About the difficulty of producing timely newsreels, de Rochemont told the New York Sun in 1940:“We have to guess so far ahead. We have to get out films before trouble [in Europe] begins. It takes a while [for the newsreels] to get back to [the United States]. ” From 1943 to 1946, de Rochemont served as president of France Forever, an organization of Americans supporting the liberation of France. In that capacity, de Rochemont addressed the People’s Congress of the East and West Association (led by author Pearl S. Buck) in May 1945, on “The People of France,” for that group’s series “What Do the Peoples of Europe Want?”; that same evening, de Rochemont also presented the film,“The Liberation of Paris. ” For his tireless efforts in the Free France movement, de Rochemont earned numerous honors from the French government, including being named Commander in the French Legion of Honor and in the Order of the Merite Nationale.
   De Rochemont received his only Academy Award in 1949, for “A Chance to Live,” March of Time episode about Boys Town in Italy. Having worked in March of Time’s New York offices since 1940 when he was made managing editor, de Rochemont left Time-Life when its newsreel unit was shut down in 1951. That same year, he formed Production Developments, Inc. , along with Jean Benoit-Levy, Dr. Edmond Parker, and Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Gruen, “for the purpose of developing and dealing with stories, plays, novels, and other dramatic and musical material for motion pictures, television, radio, and theatre. ” In 1955, de Rochemont started his own production company,Vavin, Inc. , to make “informational films. ”
   Aside from his long, distinguished film career, de Rochemont coauthored the books Contemporary French Cooking (1962) and Eating in America (1976) with Waverly Root, and wrote The Pets Cookbook (1964). He retired from Vavin, Inc. , in 1980; two years later he died, after a prolonged illness. The New York Times described de Rochemont as “a hard-headed liberal with an ardent belief in the sanctity of the facts,” with “a reporter’s traditional inquisitiveness and an equally traditional skepticism about anything that smells of ballyhoo and buncombe. ”
   ■ “Corporation Structure,” [legal document], Production Developments, Inc. , New York, July 24, 1951;
   ■ Creelman, Eileen,“Picture Plays and Players: Richard de Rochemont Discusses ‘The March of Time’ in Europe,” New York Sun, March 5, 1940; McCrary, Tex, and Jinx Falkenburg,“New York Close-Up. ” New York Herald Tribune, May 26, 1950;
   ■ “Richard de Rochemont” (obituary), Variety, August 11, 1982, p. 86;
   ■ Strauss, Theodore, “Richard of the House de Rochemont. ” New York Times, January 16, 1944;
   ■ Waggoner,Walter H. , “Richard de Rochemont, 78, Dies; Made ‘March of Time’ Newsreels,” New York Times, August 6, 1982, p. A-11;
   ■ “What Do the Peoples of Europe Want?” Handbill. The People’s Congress, Second Session. March 1945.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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