February 28, 2011
by Karen Grigsby Bates
At the 83rd annual Academy Awards on Sunday night, Andrew Craddock Lyles may have been the only person in the audience who’s been in the movie business for as many years as the Oscars.
Though the veteran producer was hidden in the parade of stars, Lyles is a living link to Old Hollywood — he’s spent 83 years in the movie business, all of them at Paramount Pictures.
Lyles saw his first movie when he was 10 years old, growing up in Jacksonville, Fla. He now keeps a reminder of that film near his desk: an old hand-cranked camera that was used to shoot Wings.
“That camera made a picture that changed my life,” Lyles says.
Wings, a World War I flight epic, won the very first best-picture Oscar in 1928, right about the time 10-year-old Lyles got a job sweeping up popcorn at a local Paramount theater. After a chance meeting with the studio’s founder, Adolph Zukor, Lyles wrote to the mogul every week — until he was hired right out of high school.
Suddenly, Lyles found himself surrounded by some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He still remembers seeing Gloria Swanson arrive at Paramount Studios’ famous wrought-iron gates with two young girls walking in front of her holding big baskets of rose petals.