Hannah Weinstein

Hannah Weinstein (née Dorner; June 23, 1911 - March 9, 1984) was an American journalist, publicist and left-wing political activist who moved to Britain and became a television producer. She is best remembered for having produced The Adventures of Robin Hood television series in the mid-to-late 1950s.

Hannah Weinstein
Hannah Dorner

(1911-06-23)June 23, 1911
New York, U.S.
DiedMarch 9, 1984(1984-03-09) (aged 72)
New York, U.S.
OccupationTelevision producer, journalist, publicist, political activist
Spouse(s)Pete Weinstein
Children3, including Paula Weinstein

Early life

Born to a Jewish family in New York City,[1] Weinstein worked for the New York Herald Tribune from 1927. In 1937, she joined Fiorello H. La Guardia's New York mayoral campaign. She was also involved in the presidential campaigns of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Henry Wallace. With Ring Lardner Jr., she wrote speeches for Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles during this period.[2]


In 1950, Weinstein began her film career in Paris[3] having left the USA to avoid the rise of anticommunism, as typified by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). In 1952, after settling in London, she established her own production company, Sapphire Films.[4][2] The company eventually made series for the British commercial ITV network via an arrangement with ITC's Lew Grade. Weinstein created and executive produced The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955–59), starring Richard Greene. The first two series were syndicated by Official Films to American television stations; they also dwell on the theme of betrayal.[2]

Weinstein used scripts by 22 Americans writers blacklisted after being identified as communists by HUAC, such as Waldo Salt, Ring Lardner Jr., Ian McLellan Hunter who all adopted pseudonyms (they were still generally living in Los Angeles and New York City, usually with their passports confiscated), but were paid less than their usual fees.[2][4] Weinstein instituted security measures to ensure that the writers' true identities remained secret. Louis Marks, one of the series' script editors later remarked: "Had even a hint of this leaked, the whole enterprise would have foundered". Sonia, Marks' wife who worked as Weinstein's assistant was told never to accept registered post in case it was a subpoena to appear at a HUAC hearing.[2] The FBI considered Weinstein a "concealed Communist". It discovered by 1955, via an American embassy agent, that Sapphire Films was "influenced by the communists" but no action against the company is recorded. Director J. Edgar Hoover was aware the British press was usually against McCarthyism.[2]

The success of Robin Hood led Weinstein to create a further four television series, The Buccaneers (1956–57), The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956–57), Sword of Freedom (1958–60) and The Four Just Men (1959) (as Hannah Fisher).

Sapphire Films ceased to function in late 1961 owing to financial problems caused by Weinstein's then husband, John Fisher.[5] She returned to America in 1962, and resumed her involvement in politics.

Later career

In 1971, Weinstein founded the Third World Cinema Corporation with Ossie Davis, James Earl Jones and Rita Moreno to produce films with members of minority communities.[3][4] She produced the Oscar nominated film Claudine (1974), featuring a cast including Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones, in a story about an African American family struggling through hard times and racism. She later produced Greased Lightning (1977) and Stir Crazy (1980), both of which star comedian Richard Pryor.[3]

In 1982, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who, through their endurance and the excellence of their work over their lifetime, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry.[6] In 1984, she was named for the Liberty Hill Foundation Upton Sinclair Award in honor of her artistic and political accomplishments.

Personal life

In 1938, she married Pete Weinstein, a reporter for The Brooklyn Eagle; the couple divorced in 1955.[3] They had three daughters, film producers Paula Weinstein (married to Mark Rosenberg), Lisa Weinstein and the eldest, Dina Weinstein.[3] Weinstein died from a heart attack at her home on Park Avenue, New York City on March 9, 1984; services were held at Riverside Memorial Chapel.[3]


  1. Erens, Patricia (1998). The Jew in American Cinema. Indiana University Press. p. 392. ISBN 978-0-253-20493-6.
  2. Matthews, Tom Dewe (7 October 2006). "The outlaws". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  3. "Hannah Weinstein, Producer and Poliical Activist, is Dead". The New York Times. 11 March 1984. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  4. Vahimagi, Tise (2003–14). "Weinstein, Hannah (1912-1984)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  5. Prime, Rebecca (2014). Hollywood Exiles in Europe: The Blacklist and Cold War Film Culture. New Brunswick, New Jersey & London: Rutgers University Press. p. 129.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 June 2011. Retrieved 10 May 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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