[Fox News] ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby’ producer Albert Ruddy dead at 94

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Albert Ruddy, who won Academy Awards for producing “The Godfather” and “Million Dollar Baby,” has died. He was 94 years old. 

The Canadian producer, who made more than 30 movies during his long career and is credited with co-creating both “Hogan’s Heroes” and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” died peacefully at UCLA Medical Center on Saturday, a spokesperson said. 

One of the last things he said, according to the spokesperson, was, “The game is over, but we won the game.”

Ruddy’s career took him to spectacular heights, but he also skirted controversy and even danger along the way from having his car windows shot by real-life mobsters who left a note telling him to stop the production of “The Godfather” and people like Frank Sinatra complaining that the mafia movie reinforced negative stereotypes about Italian Americans to criticism that “Hogan’s Heroes” trivialized Nazis. 

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He soon met face-to-face with members of the mafia as he tried to smooth over their frustration with the picture. 

“Joe sits opposite me, one guy’s on the couch, and one guy’s sitting in the window,” Ruddy told Vanity Fair in 2009 of his meeting with the head of the Colombo crime family, Joseph Colombo and a couple of his associates. “He puts on his little Ben Franklin glasses, looks at it (the script) for about two minutes. What does this mean ‘fade in?’ he asked.'”

Ruddy said he removed one mention of the word mafia and made a donation to the Italian American Civil Rights League and then joined Colombo at a press conference where the mob boss announced his support for the film. 

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Mafia members also ended up working as extras on the film and became friendly with the cast. 

“It was like one happy family,” Ruddy told Vanity Fair. “All these guys loved the underworld characters, and obviously the underworld guys loved Hollywood.”

“The Godfather” won best picture in 1973. 

“Al Ruddy was absolutely beautiful to me the whole time on ‘The Godfather’; even when they didn’t want me, he wanted me,” star Al Pacino said in a statement. “He gave me the gift of encouragement when I needed it most and I’ll never forget it.”

“Million Dollar Baby,” starring Clint Eastwood, won best picture in 2005 and Ruddy also worked with the star in 2021’s “Cry Macho.” 

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Ruddy was even portrayed by Miles Teller in the 2022 Paramount+ miniseries about the making of “The Godfather.”

Ruddy told Vanity Fair he got a call after Paramount Pictures acquired the rights to Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” for what originally was to be a low budget gangster movie.

“Do you want to do The Godfather?'” Ruddy said. “I thought they were kidding me, right? I said, ‘Yes, of course, I love that book’ — which I had never read.”

Ruddy and co-creator actor Bernard Fein had originally envisioned “Hogans Heroes” as inmates at a U.S. prison, but changed it to a German POW camp when he heard a network was developing a series about an Italian POW camp. 

“We thought, ‘Perfect,'” Ruddy later explained. “We rewrote our script and set it in a German POW camp in about two days.”

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The series starred Bob Crane as U.S. Col. Robert Hogan and Werner Klemperer as Nazi Col. Klink and ran on CBS for six seasons. The comedy is still popular in reruns on cable. 

Ruddy said that former CBS head William Paley at first called the comedy “reprehensible” for possibly trivializing the Nazi atrocities, but said he changed his mind once Ruddy acted out an episode for him. 

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Ruddy also made movies like “The Longest Yard,” and “Cannonball Run,” both starring Burt Reynolds, and “The Scout,” starring Brendan Fraser and Albert Brooks. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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