Mort Engelberg, 'Smokey and the Bandit' producer, dies at 86

 December 11, 2023

Mort Engelberg, the Hollywood producer who also worked in politics, has died at the age of 86. 

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Engelberg passed away on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, in Los Angeles, California.

Engelberg died, according to the outlet, from natural causes.

The Hollywood Reporter includes a statement from Engelberg's wife, Helaine Blatt, which reads, "He was a wonderful person, a wonderful husband. He loved the movie business, and he loved his work with President Clinton. He told the best stories of anyone I ever met, the best jokes."

From politics to Hollywood

From Memphis, Tennessee, Engelberg graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. According to Deadline, he worked as a journalist for a few years before going on to work for Sargent Shriver in the Peace Corp. Engelberg and Shriver would then go on to work at President Lyndon B. Johnson's Office of Economic Opportunity.

Engelberg's career, in other words, began with politics, and, as we will see, it also ended with politics. But, in the middle, Engelberg spent time in the movie business.

After the Vietnam War drained funds from the Office of Economic Opportunity, Engelberg moved to New York. There, in 1967, he obtained a job at MGM before going on to work for United Artists.

There, initially, Engelberg worked on several James Bond films. He, then, was moved to Los Angeles, where he became the assistant to the president of production before becoming an actual producer.

Engelberg has a number of producing credits to his name. But, probably, the most well-known are for the Smokey and the Bandit films and The Big Easy. 

Engelberg's return to politics

In the mid-1980s Engelberg returned to politics as an "advance man," which, according to the Hollywood Reporter, is "someone who handles publicity for political candidates, scouting locations for campaign stops, generating big crowds, and making sure events go off without a hitch."

In this capacity, according to the Daily Caller, Engelberg worked for Walter Mondale's and Michael Dukakis' presidential campaigns. Neither won.

Then, Engelberg, in the early 1990s, became an advance man for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. Clinton, of course, did win.

Engelberg would continue working for Clinton for several years, including after the end of his presidency.

Engelberg, over the years, was interviewed several times, and, each time, he expressed how much fun he considered working in politics to be. He also made it clear that he had a similar love for producing films in Hollywood.

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