Jay Weston, ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ Producer, Dies at 93

Jay Weston, who produced the Diana Ross-starring Lady Sings the Blues and Billy Wilder’s final feature, Buddy Buddy, has died. He was 93.

Weston died Tuesday of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, his family announced.

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Weston also served as head of ABC’s feature film division, Palomar Pictures, where his first project was the Sydney Pollack-directed They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), nominated for nine Oscars.

And he produced the 1969 Broadway drama Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?, starring Al Pacino in a career-launching, Tony-winning turn.

A chance meeting with Billie Holiday at the Newport Jazz Festival led him to securing the rights to her autobiography. He then produced Lady Sings the Blues (1972), the Sidney J. Furie-helmed biopic that collected five Academy Award nominations.

Weston followed with films including W.C. Fields and Me (1976), starring Rod Steiger; Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (1981), starring Carol Burnett and Alan Arkin; and Buddy Buddy (1981), starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

Weston was born in Brooklyn on March 9, 1929. He and his younger brother, Stan, were raised by his father, Phillip, and stepmother, Tina, a jazz pianist, after their mother, Shirley, died when he was 9. His dad loved opera and took him every Saturday to the Met, where they stood in the back.

He attended NYU as a pre-med student but switched to an arts curriculum. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he worked in publicity before being drafted and sent to Korea in 1952. In the service, he started a newspaper, The Hialean.

Weston returned to New York and started a publicity firm that represented singer Paul Anka and others and spent a decade as public relations counsel for Cinerama Inc. before joining Palomar Pictures in 1967. He then made his producing debut on For Love of Ivy (1968), starring Sidney Poitier.

A food connoisseur, Weston discovered a Chinese restaurant in 1981 and wrote to 100 friends to recommend it. People began asking him for places to eat, and that led him to launching a monthly newsletter with restaurants reviews. He published it until last year.

Survivors include his ex-wife, Annabelle; daughter Teresa and her husband, Bill; grandchildren Connor and Caroline; sister Ann; and nephews Greg and Eric.

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