February 21, 2020

Howard Zvi Rosenman ” Jewish Lightning” – Whitney Houston’s last producer

Written by : Marilyn Sheriff and Micha Keynan

It’s the end of December, but we are enjoying July weather as we listen to Howard Rosenman tell us how he met Elizabeth Taylor.  “…at the premiere of “Cleopatra,” I hid in the air conditioning unit for eight hours.  Then, I jumped down into the bathroom where Danny Kay was taking a piss and he saw me and he thought I was an angel.  Then I walked out and met the actress Beatrice Lilly, and Beatrice Lilly said to me, “Oh my God, you must be Spyros Skouras’s grandson”. Spyros Skouras produced “Cleopatra,” and so I walked over to the usher and said: “I am Spyros Skouras’s grandson.  Can I have a seat?”  I sat next to Elizabeth Taylor during the premiere.” This heavenly encounter at the “Cleopatra” premiere was the first of many that launched Howard into the seat he sits in now.


Howard Rosenman was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised on Long Island.  His mother and father, Israeli Jewish parents are from Mea Shearim and Shaarei Chesed in Jerusalem, Israel.  His family had previously lived in The Old City for seven generations and carried a classic set of values and customs.  Howard attended and graduated from Brooklyn College and then went to medical school for three years.  In 1967, he had the desire to finish medical school at Hahnemann Medical College, but instead retired his schooling to serve as an extern-medic in the Six Day War as a part of the Israeli Defense Forces.  Soon after he served in the war, Howard met his dear mentor Leonard Bernstein.  Leonard Bernstein is the composer of “West Side Story,” “Candide,” and was the conductor of the New York and Israel Philharmonics.  Thirty days after the Six Day War, Leonard Bernstein conducted Mahler’s historic Resurrection Symphony on the newly re-conquered Mt. Scopus.  Isaac Stern played the violin. Howard was at that symphony and met with Leonard Bernstein after the concert.  Mr. Bernstein asked Howard to become a “gofer” on the documentary, JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM, that they were filming of Mr. Bernstein conducting the IPO in Judea and Samarea for the IDF.  It was then that the Maestro convinced Howard to follow his passion for film and music and leave medical school and make the leap into storytelling and show business..

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Howard tells us, “The next time I met Elizabeth Taylor was during Richard Burton’s run of “Hamlet.”  I convinced Richard I was the producer’s assistant and I convinced the producers that I was Richard’s assistant.  They loved me and I had a job.  See, Elizabeth Taylor was so gigantic, there’s nothing like it today not even Brad and Angelina. The crowds were ecstatic whenever Elizabeth was seen.  Richard was appearing as Hamlet at the Lunt-Fontaine Theater.  There were all these policemen on horseback holding back the crowds when Elizabeth would be driven in, to spend the intermission and second and third acts with Richard.  My job was to bring in Elizabeth from the limo into the theatre then into the dressing room where Richard was spending the intermissions.  I spent every single performance during those intermissions with Elizabeth and Richard.  I got very close to Elizabeth through the years.”
Howard produced his first film for television in 1973, “Isn’t it Shocking” and the dominos kept falling as projects kept coming.  In 1976, he produced his first film for the screen, “Sparkle.” Howard tells us about Sparkle, “The film was about three black girls in Harlem in 1956 that sing and form a girl group… Joel Schumacher and I both met in 1972 and we both had a love for Diana Ross and the Supremes and we both loved R&B music and we both wanted to do a musical.”  So we wrote the story, Joel wrote the screenplay and I produced it for Warner Brothers in 1975.  Howard’s film projects include other films such as THE MAIN EVENT with Barbara Streisand, 1979; RESURRECTION, 1980, both of which he produced with Renee Missel; LOST ANGELS, 1989; GROSS ANATOMY, 1989 (includes Howards’ true stories about being a med student); FATHER OF THE BRIDE, 1991; STRAIGHT TALK, 1992;  BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 1992;  FAMILY MAN, 2000; BREAKFAST WITH SCOT, 2007; COMMON THREADS: STORIES FROM THE QUILT which garnered an Oscar and a Peabody; CELLULOID CLOSET which won him his second Peabody and many other feature films, including a remake of Israel’s most successful comedy of 2009, A MATTER OF SIZE, which he is about to produce for Paramount Pictures with Carol Baum and David Permut.  Jon Turtletaub is set to direct. Howard Franklin is writing.

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Through the years of producing mega-movies Howard especially made time to give back to the community.  With a remarkable need to help those suffering through HIV/AIDS, Howard and Marianne Williamson, and now long time friend Elizabeth Taylor, started a non-profit organization, Project Angel Food.  Howard explains,  “…is a Meals On Wheels for HIV/AIDS patients, now one of the most successful charities in Southern California. Elizabeth Taylor gave us the first 50,000 dollars from the ETAF…”  The non-profit is, and has, helped innumerable amounts of people through this epidemic then, now, and tomorrow.
Today Howard has been very busy remaking his first feature “Sparkle” for SONY.