LOS ANGELES — Movie producer Dick Shepherd, whose credits included “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), “The Fugitive Kind” (1960) and “Robin and Marian” (1976), probably saved one of the most popular film songs of all time.

After a test screening of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Paramount executive Marty Rackin gathered the creative team and said, “I loved the picture,” as recounted in the 2010 Sam Wasson book, “Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m.,” about the film.

But there was one problem. Rackin hated the plaintive ballad, “Moon River,” that star Audrey Hepburn sings in the movie. In colorful language, Rackin said the song “has to go.”

Shepherd was soft-spoken and known for approaching problems in a quiet manner. But at this point, he rose to his feet and said, in no uncertain terms, “You’ll cut that song over my dead body.”

Rackin backed down, and “Moon River,” written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, went on to win the Oscar for best song and Grammy for song of the year.

Shepherd, who also spent time as a studio executive and as an agent, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles at age 86.


The cause was kidney failure, said his wife, Patty Shepherd.

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was based on a novella by Truman Capote, who wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the lead character.

This time the producers won out and cast Hepburn. It was another casting matter that drew criticism — the choice of Mickey Rooney to play a bumbling, painfully stereotyped Japanese man.

Shepherd came to regret the choice. “I don’t mind saying at one point I wanted to replace him,” Shepherd said in a short documentary, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s — the Making of a Classic” (2006).

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