Robert Evans is an American film producer, best known for his work on Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, The Godfather, and Chinatown.
Evans was born Robert J. Shapera in New York City, New York, the son of Florence, a housewife who came from a wealthy family, and Archie Shapera, a dentist in Harlem. He grew up on New York City’s Upper West Side during the 1930s, where he was better off than most people living during the Great Depression. In his early years, he did promotional work for Evan Picone, a fashion company founded by his brother, in addition to doing voice work on radio shows.
He was spotted by actress Norma Shearer next to the pool at The Beverly Hills Hotel on election day 1956; she successfully touted him for the role of her late husband Irving Thalberg in Man of a Thousand Faces. The same year, Evans also caught the eye of Darryl F. Zanuck, who cast him as Pedro Romero in a film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, against the wishes of co-star Ava Gardner and Hemingway himself. In 1959, he appeared in Twentieth Century Fox’s production of The Best of Everything with Hope Lange, Diane Baker, and Joan Crawford.
Dissatisfied with his own acting talent, he determined to become a producer. He got his start as a producer by purchasing the rights to a 1966 novel entitled The Detective which Evans made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra in 1968. Peter Bart, a writer for the New York Times, wrote an article about Evans? aggressive production style. This got Evans noticed by Charles Bluhdorn, who was head of the Gulf+Western conglomerate, and hired Evans as part of a shakeup at Paramount Pictures.