Rollins, Jack: Woody Allen Producer, Dies at 100

Jack Rollins, the producer-manager who handled Woody Allen, David Letterman, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Lenny Bruce, died Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 100.

A native of Brooklyn, Rollins was a co-producer with the late Charles H. Joffe on many of Allen’s films.  H appeared briefly in Allen’s 1984 film, “Broadway Danny Rose,” in which Allen played a manager of a variety of strange acts — a character he loosely modeled on Rollins.

Rollins and Joffe

The couple had producing credits on all of Allen’s films between 1969 and 1993, including “Take the Money and Run,” “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” “Bananas,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Zelig,” “Radio Days” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Born as Jacob Rabinowitz in Brooklyn, he broke into the business after World War II as a Broadway producer, then founded a talent agency in Manhattan before partnering with Joffe.

“Woody wanted merely for us to manage his affairs in a conventional fashion, to better his career as a TV writer,” Rollins told the N.Y. Times in 1985. “Well, we just thought he had the potential to be a triple threat, like Orson Welles — writer, director, actor.”

Rollins also provided guidance beyond career counseling to his clients, such finding apartments and advising on wardrobes. Emmy-winning producer-director Robert Weide, who worked for Rollins and Joffe, told Variety that Rollins combined smarts, gut instincts and kindness in his conduct as a manager.

Weide interviewed Rollins extensively for “Woody Allen: A Documentary” a two-part film for the American Masters series on PBS, which aired in 2011. He said that Rollins remained vibrant during April’s surprise celebration of his 100th birthday, organized by his daughters.  Weide noted that Rollins and Joffe taking on producer roles in Allen’s movies was a pioneering move, done to protect their client’s interests.

Rollins also managed the late Robin Williams starting in the late 1970s, bringing order and structure to the former street mime’s somewhat chaotic performances and helping him score a breakthrough role on “Mork and Mindy.” Other clients included Robert Klein, Dick Cavett, Jimmy Tingle, Diane Keaton and Martin Short.

Even after Rollins retired, Allen continued to give him executive producer credits on his films, including “Magic in the Moonlight.”

He remained modest about his achievements, stating, “I have a talent for noticing other talent” when asked to explain his success.