LOS ANGELES — Jerry Weintraub, a consummate showman whose up-and-down career touched musical entertainers as grandly diverse as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Led Zeppelin and screen artists who included Steven Soderbergh, Robert Altman and Michael Douglas, died on Monday in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 77.
The cause was cardiac arrest, his publicist said.
Once best known as a concert promoter and a music manager, Mr. Weintraub became a force in the film business with Mr. Altman’s “Nashville,” Barry Levinson’s “Diner” and Carl Reiner’s “Oh, God!” He joined in producing those movies in the 1970s and ’80s, before a crippling business failure temporarily halted his Hollywood career.
A longtime intimate of former President George H. W. Bush — initially a friend of Mr. Weintraub’s second wife, the torch singer Jane Morgan — Mr. Weintraub made himself into a myth by combining his three hallmarks: political access, Hollywood success and relentless charm. That persona was cemented both in a 2010 memoir, written with Rich Cohen, called “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man,” and “His Way,” a 2011 HBO documentary about his career.
“All life was a theater and I wanted to put it up on a stage,” Mr. Weintraub wrote in his memoir. “I wanted to set the world under a marquee that read: ‘Jerry Weintraub Presents.’ ”
Mr. Weintraub hit a peak in 1984 with “The Karate Kid,” which spawned three sequels and a spinoff TV series and became Mr. Weintraub’s best Hollywood door-opener. “I used to tease him about being a black belt name-dropper,” Mr. Bush said in a statement on Monday. “But he did seem to know everyone in showbiz.”
Jerome Charles Weintraub was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 26, 1937, and grew up in the Bronx. In a story he told over the years, he learned how to spin facts — or nonfacts — from his jeweler father, Samuel Weintraub, who promoted his business with tall tales. As Mr. Weintraub told the story, one highly promoted sapphire was actually “a piece of junk,” but his father named it the Star of Ardavan and took it on tour.
Mr. Weintraub skipped college to join the Air Force and, after serving, got a job as a page at NBC. Soon he was working as an assistant to Lew Wasserman at MCA, the talent agency. But climbing rungs was not his style. By 1964 he had struck out with a couple of friends to start a management company.
How exactly he got involved with Elvis Presley is a story that changed at his own telling and retelling over the years. This much is true: Mr. Weintraub somehow gained the confidence of Colonel Tom Parker, who managed Presley, and helped engineer a successful concert tour — so successful that, by 1968, Mr. Weintraub was similarly working with Sinatra.
By the early 1970s, Mr. Weintraub’s roster of music clients had grown to include Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues and John Denver. Mr. Denver, with George Burns, starred in “Oh, God!,” enhancing Mr. Weintraub’s film career, though they eventually parted acrimoniously.
Behind his bombast and camaraderie, Mr. Weintraub struggled through personal friction with Ms. Morgan, from whom he separated decades ago but never divorced, and business turmoil, which led to the bankruptcy of his Weintraub Entertainment Group in 1990.
The bankruptcy was a painful public embarrassment: It followed a heavily publicized effort to build an independent film studio with about $500 million in financing from large backers like Columbia Pictures and Cineplex Odeon Corporation, and a failed bailout that involved prominent financial players, including the junk bond king Michael Milken, the Bear Stearns investment banking firm and the European bank Crédit Lyonnais.
The collapse followed overspending and some flops, including Richard Benjamin’s “My Stepmother Is an Alien.” And it occurred during the first Bush presidency, when Mr. Weintraub’s excesses — he lived high in Malibu, Beverly Hills and Palm Springs, and was chauffeured about in several Rolls-Royce automobiles — drew attention far outside of Hollywood.
In 1997, Mr. Weintraub, trying to rebound, failed again, with a forgettable Chevy Chase comedy, “Vegas Vacation.”
Yet he came back to the table and found one of the biggest film franchises of the 2000s, pulling together an ensemble of megawatt stars — Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Julia Roberts — for the “Ocean’s Eleven” casino heist trilogy. It took in more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office for Warner Bros., which had helped Mr. Weintraub build a new production company to succeed his failed studio.
Among his philanthropies, throughout his business life, Mr. Weintraub was known for organizing and appearing on annual telethons for Chabad, the religious and charitable group.
Mr. Clooney, speaking to Vanity Fair magazine in 2008, compared Mr. Weintraub to a force of nature, which is how most people in Hollywood referred to him over the years — a character that stood out even among characters. “He’s a hurricane,” Mr. Clooney said. (On Monday, Mr. Clooney in a statement, in part, “To those who didn’t know him, we send our deepest sympathy. You would have loved him.”)
He delivered a successful “Karate Kid” remake as recently as 2010, and left behind another possible blockbuster in “Tarzan,” which Warner Bros. plans to release next summer. But Mr. Weintraub found his biggest late-career success in television.
“Behind the Candelabra,” an HBO movie that starred Mr. Douglas as Liberace and was directed by Mr. Soderbergh, won 11 Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes.
His survivors include Ms. Morgan and four children: Michael, Julie, Jamie and Jody.
At the Globes ceremony in 2014, Mr. Weintraub showed up to claim his honors in much-photographed jeweled and embroidered tuxedo slippers. His appearance capped the success of “Behind the Candelabra,” a project that seemed made to order: A stranger-than-fiction show business story set in a bygone era where themes as outré as cross-dressing and drug use were cheerfully absorbed by a public that just wanted to be entertained.