The movie producer, famous for films great and awful, has died. A clear-eyed obituary is here.
He was certainly old school in his promotion of his movies. I remember a colleague at a small Virginia newspaper interviewing him for his disastrous remake of "King Kong" (the one with Jeff Bridges, and which almost killed Jessica Lange's movie career just as it began). She came away from the interview mimicking the producer's repeated insistence that "You will love my Kong."
Looking in my old edition of Ephraim Katz's Film Encyclopedia, I can see both his belief in big movies and the reason that his studio failed in the late '80s. A lot of box-office poison there, although it included some movies that are still worth talking about, like "Blue Velvet" and a fine little suspenser called "The Bedroom Window." And before and after that were the likes of "Army of Darkness," "The Dead Zone" (the Christopher Walken movie), "The Shootist," "Buffalo Bill and the Indians" -- in other words, enough to make up for things like "Mandingo," "Flash Gordon" and "Dune."
I like David Thomson's summation of de Laurentiis in the 2004 edition of "The New Biographical Dictionary of Film": "He has had no qualms about balancing exploitation, middle-of-the-idiot entertainment, and arty 'risks.' " That's a pretty good template for movie moguls generally, since exploitation often pays for the arty risks. And, as should be clear from some of the movies I've mentioned, de Laurentiis's money got some good movies made.