A photo of Greg Bautzer and Joan Crawford, listed on EBay for $9.99.
Handsome, charming, well spoken, Gregson “Greg” Bautzer was as dashing and popular as any successful Hollywood movie star. Bautzer wasn’t an actor, however, but one of Hollywood’s most influential and powerful attorneys. The lawyer represented billionaires, movie magnates, and attractive starlets, and helped set up independent production companies. Bautzer knew how to talk his way into Tinsel Town boardrooms, as well as into his beautiful female clients’ beds.
Even as a young man, Bautzer possessed enormous drive and ambition. He spoke well, entering and winning many oratorical contests. Bautzer won contests representing Long Beach and San Pedro as early as 1925. He was a group champion in the Southwest section of the National Oratorical Contest of the Constitution in 1926, with the April 28, 1926, Los Angeles Times noting that he was also a crack debater, actor, athlete, and winner of San Pedro’s annual Shakespearean contest. His ambition was to study law. Bautzer finished second place in the 1926 sectional competition.
In 1927, Bautzer finished third in the Southwest section of the Fourth National and Second International Oratorical Contest on the Constitution, held at the Shrine Civic Auditorium that year. A few weeks later, on May 18, 1927, Bautzer appeared on KHJ radio at 8:30 pm to present his entry in that contest.
He entered USC in 1928, continuing his public speaking training. Bautzer led the Trojans as one of the stars of its debate team, participating around the country in competition against rival schools. He won a place on the All California debate team to travel to England in 1930 as the start of a European tour. While on the trip, he was named to the honorary fraternity Sigma Sigma, and elected to USC’s Skull and Dagger Club later that year. Bautzer and the USC team traveled to Hawaii in April 1931 to compete against a Japanese team.
Bautzer employed his oratorical skills as president of the USC Republican club in 1932, actively working to reelect President Herbert Hoover, one competition he lost.
While a senior in the law school, Bautzer married Marion Jahns of Pasadena in 1935, but domesticity bored him. By the late 1930s, he was divorced, and living the high life of a Hollywood bachelor.
Bautzer worked hard during the day as a Hollywood attorney and socialized at night. He represented playboy Emanuel “Buddy” Adler (later to be 20th Century-Fox studio head) in a grand theft and bad check case in 1938. Bautzer also handled divorce work, child custody cases, and alimony cases, many for Hollywood celebrities.
In this capacity, he met and represented many successful starlets, combining business with pleasure. After handling his beautiful clients’ personal and business interests during the day, the roguish attorney accompanied them to nightclubs, parties, and premieres. Bautzer wooed and dated such women as Lana Turner, Dorothy Lamour, Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, Sonja Henie, and Audrey Totter, along with others, often two or more at the same time. Daily Variety called him “man-about-Beverly Hills” in its May 6, 1942, edition.
During World War II, Bautzer served as a Navy pilot, earning distinction for his service piloting blimps in North Africa and Italy.
Upon his return to Hollywood, he moved into more serious and important legal work, representing moguls, studios, and production companies. As Bautzer told the December 14, 1969, New York Times, “I decided that divorce law was not the direction I wanted to go in and that it wasn’t as economic as the field of corporate law. So I changed directions and got into corporate practice.”
In 1951, Bautzer prepared papers to sue Ward Bond for defamation on behalf of his client Jose Ferrer, when Bond caused the California Teachers Association to withhold a certificate of merit to Ferrer, by alleging that the actor had strong leanings towards the Communist Party.
Bautzer also represented producer Jerry Wald in negotiations, as well as handling Buddy Adler’s deal to head Fox in the late 1950s. Attorney Bautzer managed legal affairs for mogul Joseph Schenck, and later served as co-executor and co-trustee of Schenck’s estate in 1961. He also assisted filmmakers in setting up independent firms to produce films, often acting as their counsels as well.
Thanks to his Hollywood work, Bautzer also served on the Board of Directors of film related organizations, such as the exhibition chain National Theatres in the mid-1950s.
As the December 14, 1969, New York Times stated, “Mr. Bautzer, who gives the impression of using his hearty joviality to disguise somewhat a razor-sharp negotiating ability, describes his function a bit less ebulliently with these words: ‘There is a place for the lawyer who can use his legal knowledge to be an architect in the corporate sense. That’s what I hope to do.’”
One of his most important clients happened to be tycoon and film investor Howard Hughes. Hughes consulted with Bautzer about the film industry, and his possible investments. Bautzer negotiated with Hughes on behalf of the Ralph Stolkin syndicate, which purchased RKO-Radio Studios from Hughes in 1952. From this work, the attorney landed the position of RKO legal counsel.
Bautzer continued to charm the ladies as well, and maintained good relations with former flames, a magnet for their attention long after breakups. Army Archerd noted in his April 11, 1952, Daily Variety column, “The biggest hug and kiss at Charlie Feldman’s party for DeSica was given by Joan Crawford to Greg Bautzer, but her escort was Mel Dinelli.
In the 1960s, Bautzer served as Hughes Tools legal counsel, assisted Elliot Hyman in acquiring Warner Bros. Pictures, and often advised billionaire tycoon Kirk Krekorian as well. In 1969, Bautzer’s firm served as MGM general counsel, replacing the firm Loeb and Loeb, after successfully advising Krekorian on how to purchase the studio. He also assisted studio officials with selling the studio lot itself. Bautzer’s firm researched assets of studio Twentieth Century-Fox for possible buyers in 1977.
Bautzer represented preacher Gene Scott as well, and acted as attorney for a member of Scott’s church in a routine case in 1985. Glendale Municipal Judge Barbara Lee Burke commented to the October 27, 1987, Los Angeles Times on the man’s charm, personality, and character. “He was so courtly and so charming to everyone. He would notice everything going on. We had a squeaky door, and during a break one day he went out and got a can of oil to fix it. After the trial he called me up and invited me out to lunch. We got to be friends. He was such an exceptional person. He was like a magical person. This strong, tough man. But also so kindly.”
In 1959, Bautzer married again, this time to actress Dana Wynter. The couple’s only son Mark was born in 1960, and Bautzer settled down for awhile. By the late 1960s, he divorced, but later married Niki Dantine in 1983, four years before he died in 1987.