When I think of Sam Cohn, what comes to mind is not his reputation for not returning phone calls, or his famous habit of eating paper, but rather I think of a man of impecable taste, who truly loved the arts–all the arts. My fondest memory of Sam is when both he and I were in Chicago for the premiere of a film he packaged that I was involved with financing and releasing that was called “Miles From Home.” The morning after the premiere, Sam and I went to the Art Institute to see a major Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit, and we ended up spending the day together. Sam was exhuberant about the exhibit, and loved being my guide, filling in details that he knew, but had not been included in the museum’s signage. He was a genuine enthusiast.
No one worked harder, or with more passion for their clients than Sam Cohn. When a new company would open its doors, and appeared to have any money to make movies, Sam would immediately be on the phone, advocating the some difficult project that he hadn’t been able to set up elsewhere. For a new company, being able to have access to someone as legendary are Sam, and the A-list clients that he represented, was a currency that Sam was keenly aware of, and used to get these difficult projects made. I was on the other end of that relationship several times, and Sam managed to convince me to get involved more often than not. In every case, while the films may not have been commercial blcokbusters, the end result was something I could be proud of.
The last time I heard from Sam was a couple of years ago. When I was told that Sam Cohn was on the phone, I couldn’t imagine what he was calling about. I was certinly in no position to get a film financed. It turned out that Sam had just seen a film that I had released called “Music From the Inside Out,” a documentary about the Philadelphia Orchestra. He had shlepped down to Cinema Village to see it, and had just loved it. He was calling to see if he could get a copy of it sent to Paul Newman, who he wanted to share it with. I never could say no to Sam Cohn.