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Joel Coler, Publicity Executive Who Worked on ‘Sound of Music,’ ‘Star Wars,’ Dies at 85

Variety logo Variety 3/15/2017 Dave McNary
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Joel Coler, a former vice president of advertising and publicity for 20th Century Fox International, has died. He was 85.

He died on Monday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Campus in Woodland Hills after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Coler worked at Fox for three decades on hundreds of publicity campaigns, including those for “The Sound of Music,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Star Wars.”

Coler was born in the Bronx and was a lifelong member of the Bronx Boys, a close group of friends who met at P.S. 80 in the late 1930s. He graduated from Syracuse University in 1953 and served in the U.S. Air Force. After his discharge he joined the NBC network as an advertising assistant, which led to a position as assistant account executive with Grey Advertising.

In 1964 he took a job as Director, International Advertising and Publicity for 20th Century Fox, moving to Los Angeles with his family in 1972. In 1981 he was named vice president advertising and publicity for 20th Century Fox International, a position he held until 1992. He often lectured on international film marketing at UCLA.

In 1992, he retired from Fox and established Joel Coler & Friends, a public relations agency that specialized in representing international film activities. Among his clients was the San Sebastian Film Festival, which he represented for 20 years, and where he was honored for his service in 2012.

Coler served on the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Advisory Committee as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic Business and Professional Committee. He was a member of the New York Foreign Press Association and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Coler is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sandra Coler; daughters Karen Castaneda and Linda Fields; son-in-law Jordan Fields; grandchildren Nicolette Castaneda, Colton Castaneda and Colin Fields; and sister Bunny Sandler.

A memorial celebration is being planned, and donations may be made to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

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