Herman “Hy” Levine, a 48-year veteran of the film industry who rose through the marketing ranks at Universal and Disney, died Dec. 27 in Rockville, Md. after suffering from pancreatic cancer. He was 87.
Levine was an executive Disney from 1986 to 1998, rising to the rank of Vice President of Co-Op Advertising at the time when the studio began stepping up its movie output under CEO Michael Eisner after a particularly fallow period in the early 1980s. In his position, Levine was responsible for print and outdoor advertising on all Disney features, including those that fell under the Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures banners.
Among the films Levine helped launch were such animated megahits as “The Lion King,” “Aladdin” and “The Little Mermaid” as well as live-action titles such as “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and “Beaches.” Levine worked closely with then film marketing chief Bob Levin as well as studio honchos Dick Cook and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Before Disney, Levine spent two decades at Universal starting in 1967 in the road show division working on the Julie Andrews film “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and Shirley MacLaine starrer “Sweet Charity.” Based out of the studio’s Park Avenue office in New York, Levine would go on to plan the advertising strategies for such Universal classics as “The Sting,” “Airport,” “Earthquake,” “The Wiz” as well as the landmark 1975 Steven Spielberg film “Jaws,” which is credited with inventing the modern movie blockbuster.
Levine relocated to the West Coast in 1979 at the request of Universal chieftain Lew Wasserman and Herb Steinberg. He had a short stint at MGM before his move to Disney. Earlier in his career, Levine worked for United Artists and Joseph E. Levine’s Embassy Pictures.
A Brooklyn native, Levine was an avid Dodgers fan who was proud of having attended Game 7 of the 1955 World Series in which the then Brooklyn-based club beat their arch-rival New York Yankees in the fall classic for the first time. Levine also enjoyed working as a freelance basketball referee, and he served as president of his local B’nai B’rith chapter in Maryland.
Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Ethel; as well as two older sisters, Florence and Gladys; two sons, Stuart, a senior NBCUniversal TV communications executive; and Mark, a counselor at Montgomery College in Maryland; and three grandchildren, Zoe, Max and Maggie. The family requests that donations be made in Levine’s memory to Montgomery Hospice and Prince George’s Hospice in Montgomery County, Md.