Producer And Political Advance Man Mort Engelberg Dies At 86

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Mariane Angela Contributor
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Mort Engelberg died of natural causes Saturday at the age of 86 in Los Angeles, according to The Hollywood Reporter (THR).

The producer was known for his work on classics like “Smokey And The Bandit” and “The Big Easy,” per THR. His wife, Helaine Blatt, a successful high-end jewelry broker, was by his side, per the outlet.

“He was a wonderful person, a wonderful husband. He loved the movie business, and he loved his work with President Clinton,” Helaine Blatt told THR. “He told the best stories of anyone I ever met, the best jokes.”

Engelberg’s career was marked by a blend of film production and political involvement, per Deadline. He stepped away from his film career to orchestrate an influential bus tour for Bill Clinton and Al Gore during the summer following the 1992 Democratic Convention. This tour played a pivotal role in Clinton’s presidential campaign as it helped him solidify his image as a relatable candidate connected with the American public.

Engelberg previously carried out a similar role for Walter Mondale in 1984 and Michael Dukakis in 1988, Deadline reported. Engelberg, however, was not involved in the infamous decision to have Dukakis don a helmet and ride inside an M-1 tank in an attempt to enhance his image, per the outlet.

When asked in 1992 why he chose a life in politics over the entertainment industry, Engelberg said to the Los Angeles Times he found the work “therapeutic” and a “wonderful relief,” per THR. Despite his contributions, Engelberg remained modest with his efforts in the political careers of these politicians. (RELATED: Renowned Hollywood Producer Marty Krofft Dead At 86)

“Advance work is really like plumbing, and I’m just one tiny cog in this big, big operation,” he told the Los Angeles Times, per Deadline. “The important thing is the candidate and what he’s saying.”

That humility was also evident in his film career. “Smokey and The Bandit,” a major hit starring Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason, was among his most successful productions. Engelberg downplayed his success and compared it to “Citizen Kane” in a Los Angeles Times interview, Deadline reported.

Engelberg’s career began in journalism, which led him to Washington in 1961, per Deadline. He worked with Bobby Kennedy on the War on Poverty campaign and later joined Sargent Shriver in founding the Peace Corps. His diverse career touched both the corridors of power in Washington and the bright lights of Hollywood.