Bert Schneider was one of the most important film producers/executives in Hollywood history. Schneider, along with his partners Bob Rafelson and Stephen Blauner, headed a production company called BBS Productions, which produced (among other films) the following classics: “Easy Rider” (1969), “Five Easy Pieces (1970), “The Last Picture Show” (1971), and “Hearts and Minds” (1974). The BBS philosophy was, as long as filmmakers kept their budgets relatively low, the company would give them tremendous artistic freedom, a freedom that resulted in some radical, legendary movies that defined what was called “The New Hollywood” … movies that also happened to be very successful at the box office.
However, there was a dark side to Schneider. Per the accounts in Peter Biskind’s book “Easy Riders Raging Bulls” and other places, Schneider could be cruel … not only cuckholding friends and berating anyone he felt was his inferior (specifically screenwriters), but also indulging in extreme substance abuse. Also, Schneider’s earnestness in supporting progressive causes sometimes led him down some dark paths.
This terrific article about Schneider, written for Salon.com by Kate Coleman, chronicles Schneider’s relationship with Black Panther Huey Newton. There’s a lot of debate about Newton and his legacy. I don’t know enough about Newton to say what’s true and what isn’t. But despite whatever good he may have done, Newton was a troubled man and I don’t believe all of his troubles were the result of government conspiracies. A really fascinating and dark tale about friendship and an era when “radical chic” sometimes blinded well-intentioned people.