The legendary and controversial founder of Playboy magazine has passed away at the age of 91. Playboy’s official Twitter confirmed his death Wednesday night.
It’s difficult to find someone who didn’t know the name Hugh Hefner, polarizing figure that he was.
Borrowing $5,000 in 1953, Hefner, a native of Chicago, created an empire that still runs today.
Besides making its money off nude models, Playboy magazine was also legendary for in-depth interviews, with everyone from Malcolm X to Ayn Rand to Rush Limbaugh. Critically acclaimed writers such as Chuck Palahniuk have also had fiction published in the magazine over the years.
Next to Playboy, Hefner hosted multiple television programs in the '60s and '70s that helped cement his personality with the public. For shows like "Playboy's Penthouse" and "Playboy After Dark," he interviewed everybody from Sammy Davis Jr. to Linda Ronstadt.
A veteran of the U.S. Army, Hefner is survived by three sons and a daughter.
What many may not know about Hefner is that he was a cinema lover — and dabbled in producing mainstream films for artists he enjoyed for a time. Here's a look at three films most people probably didn't know Hefner was involved with.
1.) "Macbeth" (1971). This 1971 adaptation of the William Shakespeare play was directed by the infamous Roman Polanski (long before his side career as a fugitive on the run).
The film won critical praise, including a four out of four-star review from the late film critic Roger Ebert — but it was a commercial bomb. "MacBeth" lost a reported $3.5 million and significantly affected the bottom line of Playboy Enterprises (the company through which Hefner helped finance the endeavor).
2.) "And Now for Something Completely Different" (1971). Who doesn't love the Monty Python comedy team? "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" provided scores of quotable and hilarious material to use in everyday conversation.
Before that film, Hefner helped produce "And Now for Something Completely Different," a collection of sketch comedy from the British performers. It didn't do much business in America, as Monty Python hadn't been properly introduced yet and their original show "Monty Python's Flying Circus" hadn't been widely seen in America.
It was only four years later that the Monty Python crew would make the classic "Holy Grail" film, a hit that cemented their place in film and comedy history.
3.) "A Whale for the Killing" (1981). This was adapted from a book by author Farley Mowat, which itself was loosely based on a true story. It would go on to be nominated for two Emmy Awards.
Screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd was actually behind the adaptation, a man who would also co-found Friends of Abe in Hollywood (an anonymous group of conservative artists).
The film is about a female humpback whale stranded during a storm. A nearby village intends to kill the whale, but a visiting man decides to try to stop them.
(photo credit, homepage image: Flickr, Alan Light)