John Kemeny

John Kemeny (1925 - 2012) was a Hungarian-Canadian film producer whom the Toronto Star called "the forgotten giant of Canadian film history and...the most successful producer in Canadian history." His production credits include The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Atlantic City, and Quest for Fire.

John Kemeny was born in Budapest and, at a young age, forged a career in the film business, working in distribution and promotion. Following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, he moved to Montreal where, in 1959, he was hired by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). He began as an editor, then moved to directing but it was evident that his talent lay in producing. While at the NFB, he edited, wrote, directed and/or produced 100 films, including Memorandum, Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen, The Things I Cannot Change, The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar and Don't Let the Angels Fall.

In 1971, Kemeny left the NFB, along with three NFB colleagues: Joe Koenig, George Kaczender and Don Duprey. They formed International Cinemedia Center Productions (ICC), with the aim of producing documentaries and educational films. In 1973, the prominent director Ted Kotcheff returned to Montreal from London and, with his friend Mordecai Richler, starting developing the film version of Richler’s book The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Kemeny had the reputation of being a calm, precise and budget-conscious producer and the deal was struck for ICC to produce the film. It was a massive success. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz grossed $1.7 million, won several awards and was ranked, by the Toronto International Film Festival, in the Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time.

The success of Duddy Kravitz led to a three-picture deal with Columbia Pictures. Kemeny produced Ice Castles, Shadow of the Hawk and White Line Fever; Ice Castles was a success; White Line Fever grossed $35 million on a $1.4 million budget.

In 1978, Don Duprey returned to the NFB and Joe Koenig left the group to form Interactive Image Technologies (which would become Electronics Workbench). Kemeny was joined by his friend, the Quebec filmmaker Denis Héroux, and ICC became International Cinema Inc. The company produced eleven films in six years, most notably Atlantic City and Quest for Fire.

In 1984, Kemeny and Héroux merged International Cinema with RSL Entertainment, the company of producers Stephen J. Roth, Andras Hamori, Susan Cavan and Robert Lantos, to form Alliance Entertainment. The company saw immediate and stunning success, producing at least six projects a year, including features, TV movies and series (in 1998, it became Alliance Atlantis Communications). Perhaps because of the pace, Kemeny left Alliance in 1991. He had already produced several films for HBO and would produce three more, including The Josephine Baker Story, before retiring in 1997.

Kemeny was married three times; the last to Margaret who he married in 1964. Kemeny retired in 1996. He and Margaret, who was also Hungarian, returned to Europe, dividing their time between homes in Hungary and Spain. With the increasingly-unpleasant political situation in Hungary, and the desire for a warm climate, they bought a house in Sedona, Arizona. Kemeny was a citizen of Hungary and Canada, and his Green card had lapsed; from Spain, they waged a stressful two-year legal battle to be permitted to live in the US. In September of 2012, they were allowed to return. Two weeks after their arrival, Kemeny was diagnosed with cancer. He died one month later, on November 23, at age 87. He was pre-deceased by a daughter and was survived by his wife and one son.

At the 12th Genie Awards in 1991, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television awarded Kemeny the Special Achievement Genie in recognition of his contribution to the Canadian film industry.

Upon his death, Robert Lantos told the Toronto Star: "John was a producer of extraordinary accomplishments. Because he never promoted himself, preferring to stay in the shadow, few in the Canadian industry today know who he is. By the time he retired 15 years ago, he had accomplished more than any other Canadian producer - ever. Five Oscar nominations for Atlantic City including Best Picture (still the only Canadian film ever nominated in this), and the Golden Lion in Venice. An Oscar nomination and the Golden Bear in Berlin for Duddy Kravitz. The César (French Oscar) for best picture and an Oscar nomination for Quest For Fire. No other Canadian film has ever won either the top Berlin or the top Venice prize. He won them both, as well as a multitude of Genie Awards for these and for other films like The Bay Boy. He made some of the most distinguished HBO movies ever, such as Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story, and The Josephine Baker Story, which was nominated for twelve Emmy Awards and won five. He also made major commercial hits for Hollywood Studios, such as Ice Castles and White Line Fever. He was a pioneer and a perfectionist and a founding partner of Alliance. Homage should be paid."

National Film Board of Canada

International Cinemedia Center Productions

International Cinema Inc.

Alliance Entertainment


(List excludes awards in the directing, acting and/or craft categories)[10]

Bethune (1964)[11]

Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen (1965)

No Reason to Stay (1966)[12]

The Things I Cannot Change (1967)

Memorandum (1967)

The Children of Fogo Island (1967)[13]

Sabre and Foil (1967)[14]

Ride for Your Life (1967)[15]

Don't Let the Angels Fall (1968)

The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar (1968)

Saul Alinsky Went to War (1968)[16]

Falling from Ladders (1969)[17]

Untouched and Pure (1970)[18]

Canada the Land (1971)[19]

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974)

Atlantic City (1980)

Quest for Fire (1980)

The Plouffe Family (1981)

The Bay Boy (1984)

The Alley Cat (1985)

The Gate (1987)

Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story (1989)

The Josephine Baker Story (1991)


Vornamen:John János
Geburtsdatum:17.04.1925 (♈ Widder)
Sprachen:Ungarisch; Englisch;
Berufe:Filmproduzent, Produzent,