Upon meeting producer A.C. Lyles, the first word that comes to mind is “gentleman”. Never the cliched cigar-chomping huckster type of the ’30s (although he worked for them) or the screaming Joel Silver-styled producer of today, Lyles is Paramount Pictures’ ambassador of goodwill to the world. After 60-plus years in the business, he seems to have known (and liked) virtually everyone; and when one of the giants of the Golden Age passes, Lyles is the first person called for a comment.
Working his way up from office boy to Paramount’s director of publicity, Lyles’ tenacity was rewarded and he became the studio’s leading producer of modestly budgeted films. He soon became known for a string of Westerns marked by their veteran casts, noted B-film directors and short schedules. At a time when the Western was steering toward a darker horizon thanks to the talents of directors like Anthony Mann, Lyles embraced a classic, Saturday matinee-style for his films that seemed old-fashioned even when they were made. Populated by stand-up sheriffs, snake-eyed outlaws and heart-of-gold saloon gals, these horse operas were endearing time capsules that are still popular today.
Working with straightforward scripts and filling his casts with familiar Hollywood faces, Lyles created a niche that was uniquely his own. As Hollywood (and the world) changed in the ’60s, Lyles stuck to his traditional formula. While Peckinpah was breaking ground with The Wild Bunch, Lyles was on the back lot pitting good Marshal Barry Sullivan against black hat John Russell in Buckskin. If the Western of the ’50s and ’60s reflected a harsher social reality, the optimistic Lyles would have none of it in his films. He is the Champion of the B’s; a filmmaker who believes in the kind of movies that assured front-row kids that good guys win out in the end and there is a law for the lawless………………………….