'The Godfather' producer Al Ruddy dead at 94

 May 29, 2024

Famed Hollywood writer and producer Al Ruddy, best known for 1972's "The Godfather," passed away over the weekend at the age of 94, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

He died on Saturday at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles following a "brief illness," per a statement from his family.

In addition to "The Godfather," for which he won an Oscar for Best Picture, Ruddy also won the same Oscar award for producing 2004's "Million Dollar Baby" and was a creator of hit TV series like "Hogan's Heroes" and "Walker, Texas Ranger."

An architect-turned-Hollywood producer

According to THR, Albert Stotland Ruddy was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1930 but grew up with his mother, a luxury fur designer, and his siblings in New York City, where he attended Brooklyn Tech and City College of New York before transferring to the University of Southern California to earn a degree in architecture.

Following a short-lived career in the construction industry on the East Coast, Ruddy moved to Los Angeles, California permanently and began his lifelong career in Hollywood, with his first major production being 1965's "Wild Seed."

"To his contemporaries in the business, Ruddy is best remembered for his easy-going nature, his undeniable comedic sense, and his undying interest in people and the stories we tell," his family said in a statement. "Among his last words [were], 'The game is over, but we won the game.'"

Producer of "The Godfather"

Ruddy is perhaps best known for producing famed Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Mario Puzo's mafia novel "The Godfather," which starred Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton, among other stars, according to the Associated Press.

The Oscar-winning movie, arguably one of the best films ever made, was almost not completed following threats against its production by real-life Italian-American crime families and gangsters who were concerned that it would reinforce negative publicity and stereotypes.

Ruddy, however, personally met with a mafia crime boss and allayed concerns by agreeing to certain conditions, including hiring actual mobsters as extras and making a donation to the Italian-American Civil Rights League, among other things.

Pacino, who starred as Michael Corleone in the film, said of the late producer, "Al Ruddy was absolutely beautiful to me the whole time on 'The Godfather;' even when they didn’t want me, he wanted me. He gave me the gift of encouragement when I needed it most and I’ll never forget it."

Ironically enough, Ruddy was presented with his 1973 Oscar award for "The Godfather" by actor Clint Eastwood, who more than 30 years later would star in and direct Ruddy's other Oscar-winning production, 2004's "Million Dollar Baby."

Numerous other hit films and TV series to his credit

Deadline reported that before Ruddy hit it big with "The Godfather," he'd already garnered some measure of fame as a co-creator of the 1960's hit CBS sitcom "Hogan's Heroes" about an allied POW camp in Germany in World War II, and later cemented his TV success with the creation of the 1990's hit CBS series "Walker, Texas Ranger," with action star Chuck Norris.

According to Ruddy's IMDb page, he is credited as a writer or producer for more than 40 films and TV series, including "The Longest Yard," "How the West Was Won," "The Cannonball Run" and its sequel, "Bad Girls," "The Scout," and most recently, Eastwood's "Cry Macho" and "The Offer," a miniseries about the making of "The Godfather."

Per Deadline, Ruddy is survived by his wife of 43 years, Wanda McDaniel, a Giorgio Armani fashion executive, and their two children, John and Alexandra, who is also a film producer, and his screenwriter son-in-law, Abdullah Saeed.

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