Benjamin Melniker, best known as a producer on Warner Bros.’ many Batman projects, has died. He was 104. Melniker died Monday in Roslyn Harbor, New York. His fellow Batman producer Michael E. Uslan shared the news on his Facebook page.
Born on May 25, 1913, Melniker started at MGM in 1939 and worked his way upward at the company, eventually becoming an executive vp and chairman of the film selection committee at the studio. The so-called “MGM Lion,” as Melniker became known, was involved in a number of important deals at the studio, including those for Ben Hur, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. Zhivago.
Upon leaving MGM, Melniker became an executive producer on movies including 1975’s Mitchell and 1976’s Shoot, but it was a decision in 1979 that changed his career. That was the year he teamed with Uslan to buy the movie rights to DC Comics’ Batman, a decision that would lead to his placement in the credits for everything from 1989’s Batman to 2017’s Justice League all the way through this year’s animated Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and Batman: Ninja movies.
With Uslan, Melniker’s name appeared on a number of different comic book properties, including 1982’s Swamp Thing, 2005’s Constantine and 2008’s The Spirit, directed by Frank Miller. In television, he also was an executive producer of Fish Police — another comic book adaptation — and Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?
“Ben was a humble man, never wishing attention,” Uslan wrote on Facebook. “He turned down endless requests to write his book or do interviews about the Golden Age of Hollywood, especially in his latter years as he became the last mogul standing from that era. He told me that he knew all the stories of what transpired behind the curtain at MGM in those decades but would never reveal things that could negatively impact those people, their children or their grandchildren. Ben was a mensch.”
Melniker is survived by his son, Harvey, and daughters-in-law Heather Melniker and Deanie Melniker, as well as five grandchildren — Douglas, Carly, Avital, Sophie and Lara — and a growing number of great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of 70 years, Shirley, and son, Charles, former head of theatrical business affairs at CAA.