Sam Adams, a literary agent whose career began in the postwar years at Warner Bros. and ended with the deal to bring The Handmaid’s Tale to the big screen, has died, according to multiple reports. He was 94.
Adams’ client list included Handmaid’s author Margaret Atwood, the recently-deceased Peter Bogdanovich, Saturday Night Fever director John Badham, TV giant Stephen J. Cannell, Oscar-winner Alvin Sargent, Casablanca star Paul Henreid and Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Adams got his start in Hollywood delivering messages at Warner Bros. while he was still at Beverly Hills High School. At Warners, he met the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis and Edgar G. Robinson. His stint at the studio was interrupted by 18 months of active duty in the army.
After the war he turned to journalism, serving stints at the William Randolph Hearst-owned Los Angeles Examiner, the Armed Forces Radio Services, the Beverly Hills Press and finally The Hollywood Reporter.
“I wanted to beat the game and figured out to get around the trade contacts,” Adams told Forward in 2016. “I realized the agencies and law offices were a better source of show business news than the studios.”
He continued, “I got in with the agents, and Sam Jaffe saw I also wrote reviews of theater and opera, that my reviews were more literate than average, and in 1956 Sam offered me a gig as a junior agent at the Jaffe Agency. An agent? Okay, that wasn’t my plan. But Sam represented everybody from Lauren Bacall to Zero Mostel, and he saw a useful place for me at his agency making deals for those writing for TV.”
Adams later worked for Ingo (Otto’s brother) Preminger at PSF, which repped writers, producers and composers.
“Ingo was really my mentor in my life,” he said.
He went back to Jaffe after Preminger sold the agency to General Artists Corp. Sam Jaffe had retired and Phil Gersh now ran the operation, which later changed its name to the Gersh Agency. Not long after, Adams struck out on his own.
“My firm was originally called Adams & Ray in 1963, but we added Lee Rosenberg in 1964, to become Adams, Ray & Rosenberg,” he said. “As an agent I negotiated deals involving Klute, Caddyshack, Oklahoma Crude and Saturday Night Fever.”
The agency became part of Triad Artists in 1984, and later was acquired by William Morris.
After his first wife died in 1975, Adams wed Kathleen McIntosh, a harpsichordist, in 1986.
“A couple of years later we visited New Mexico,” Adams explained, “and impulsively bought a house in Santa Fe. That was it for L.A.”
They moved in 1989. He retired in 1990.
In addition to his wife Kathleen, Adams is survived by daughters Rachel and Olivia and grandchildren Noah, Henry, Lauren and Owen.