Hollywood producer and longtime Democratic insider who served as “advance man” that “loved his work with President Clinton” reported dead at 86.
With a career in Tinseltown stretching back to the ’60s where he had assisted in the making of several James Bond films for United Artists before becoming a producer on films like “Smokey and the Bandit” and “The Big Easy,” Mort Engelberg’s film industry career was bookended by politics.
Saturday, the man who had worked to help then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton ascend to the White House and remain there, was said to have died “in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 86,” detailed The Hollywood Reporter.
Helaine Blatt, whom he had married in 2016 after 26 years of dating, remembered her departed husband as she told the outlet, “He was a wonderful person, a wonderful husband. He loved the movie business, and he loved his work with President Clinton. He told the best stories of anyone I ever met, the best jokes.”
Mort Engelberg, a producer of the films Smokey And The Bandit and The Big Easy, has passed away. Engelberg was 85, and he died in the company of his wife, Helaine Blatt, a success herself as a high-end jewelry broker. pic.twitter.com/5jho93j4lw
— Sumner (@renmusb1) December 11, 2023
“He traveled a lot with Clinton; he loved that man,” said Blatt of Engelberg’s ongoing work with the president after the White House. “He always volunteered. He always said, ‘They can’t fire me.'”
According to the Reporter, the producer had come to politics by way of the Peace Corps when he got a job working for the newly formed organization director Sargent Shriver who went on to work for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity.
Vietnam War-induced budget cuts pushed Engelberg out of Washington, D.C. and ultimately to Hollywood, but he didn’t stay away long as he would return in 1984 for his first stint as an advance man for Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign.
His duties for that unsuccessful effort and Michael Dukakis’ in 1988 included scouting ahead for campaign stop locations and generating large crowds, a practice that he wound find success with for both of Clinton’s presidential campaigns after organizing a famous bus tour that brought him and running mate, then-Tennessee Sen. Al Gore, across numerous states.
“Advance work is really like plumbing, and I’m just one tiny cog in this big, big operation,” he had told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. “The important thing is the candidate and what he’s saying.”
On his departure from Hollywood to politics, Engelberg had said, “For one thing, it’s not entirely altruistic. L.A. is a one-industry town, and everything here is ‘how did your picture do’ or ‘how did your friend’s picture do’ or ‘are you gonna make this deal or that deal?’ You have one constituent in the movie business and that’s yourself. Whereas in politics — and I know this sounds pretentious — but politics is about something. Picking the next president, that’s a pretty important thing.”
Despite his last film being “There Goes the Neighborhood” in 1992, Blatt recounted how he would never call himself retired, “He would say he was a producer.”