Israeli Director and Producer Menahem Golan Dies at 85

Golan is best known in Israel for directing the movie 'Eskimo Limon' and its sequels, but he made a number of Hollywood blockbusters.

Daniel Bar-On

Legendary Israeli director and film producer Menahem Golan died on Friday. He was 85.

Golan produced some of Israel's most memorable movies. In the 1970s he moved to Hollywood and directed many action films including those staring Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Sylvester Stallone.

Golan is best known in Israel for directing the movie Eskimo Limon (Lemon Popsicle) and its sequels. Internationally, his production company as responsible for such block-busters as Delta Force, Death Wish and Masters of the Universe.

Golan was born as Menahem Globus in 1929. After the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 he went to study theater in London. Upon his return he directed plays at the HaMatate Theater. In 1960 he went to study film at New York University.

When he returned to Israel in 1963, he directed his first feature film "El Dorado," starring Chaim Topol and Gila Almagor. A year later, in 1964 he directed the comedy "Dalia And The Sailors." That same year he founded with his cousin Yoram Globus the production company Noah Films.

One of the first films the company produced was Ephraim Kishon's "Sallah Shabati," a comedy about Immigration to Israel, starring Chaim Topol. Other notable Israeli films the two cousins produced during the 1960s and 70s were Moshe Mizrahi's "I Love You Rosa" and "The House on Schlouch Street" and Boaz Davidson's "Lemon Popsicle" series.

While producing, Golan continued to direct his own films, these included "Fortuna," "999 Aliza Mizrahi," "Queen of the Highway," "Kazablan," and "Operation Thunderbolt," which was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

In 1978, the two cousins moved to Hollywood and purchased Cannon Group a small American production company. After a number of flops, the two began to produce a number of successful films and over the years gained a reputation of super-producers, after developing a new model to fund and distribute independent films.

In 1986, Golan directed in Israel the Hollywood film "Delta Force." The company reached its apex in 1987, in which it produced dozens of films including "Over the Top," starring Sylvester Stallone. A year later in 1986 the company faced bankruptcy and Golan and Globus were forced to sell it. After this he founded the production company "21st Century Film Corporation," which among other films produced "Captain America" in 1990. This company closed down too. In the mid-90s, Golan returned to Israel and began directing musicals on the Israeli stage.

In 1999, Golan received the Israel Prize for cinema together with Israeli filmmaker David Perlov. The last Cannes Festival featured a screening of a documentary about Golan and his cousin Globus directed by Hilla Medalia called "The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films." The film charted the two cousins career and complicated relationship.