Philip Borack, 'Harper Valley PTA' Producer And Film Distributor, Dies at 84
Phil Borack, who brought Hollywood to Lebanon for Harper Valley P.T.A. in 1977, died Tuesday, April 14, at home of heart disease. He was 84.
Borack, the regional movie distributor through his Tri-State Theatre Service, was one of the most influential film industry people in Cincinnati for 40 years. until his retirement in 1996.
As the executive producer, he lured Barbara Eden, Nanette Fabray, Ronny Cox, and comedians Louis Nye and Pat Paulsen to Warren County to film Harper Valley P.T.A., based on the 1968 hit by country singer Jeannie C. Riley.
It wasn't a critical success by any means, but Harper Valley P.T.A. was significant because it was the first major motion picture shot here. More than 10 years would pass before Eight Men Out (1987) and the Oscar-winning Rain Man (1988) established Cincinnati as a filmmaking destination, attracting Little Man Tate, A Rage In Harlem, Lost In Yonkers, Milk Money, Tango & Cash and The Public Eye in the early 1990s.
Harper Valley's cast and crew also inspired a Lebanon High School student named Woody Harrelson to become an actor. He claims he can be seen in the background, wearing his varsity jacket.
Eden, best known from TV's I Dream Of Jeannie (1965-70), called the filming "a wonderful experience. That was a fabulous part to play," in a Television Academy Foundation interview.
Borack also was a co-executive producer when Harper Valley was adapted into a 1981 NBC television series starring Eden and comedian Fannie Flagg by legendary producer Sherwood Schwartz (The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island). He also was executive producer on Chattanooga Choo Choo, another screwball comedy starring Eden, George Kennedy and Joe Namath in 1984.
In 1971, Borack founded the Tri-State Theatre Service, "building it into the region's largest film booker," according to Deadline. He was a founding board member of Regal Cinemas in 1989. "His independent Tri-State Theatre Service provided licenses for Regal exclusively until November 1995," Deadline said.
Doris Owens, who started The Owens Group movie marketing company in 1981, said all the Hollywood studio distribution and sales executives knew Borack.
"Every time I went to a meeting in Los Angeles, Phil's name would come up. They'd say, 'We've got to get Phil to play this (movie) in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana,' " she said.
Before films were released, Borack would show them for area theater owners and movie critics in a screening room at his office on Northland Boulevard, Owens said.
"He was significant to so many people. He helped me get started too," she said.
A private graveside service is planned. A "fitting celebration of his life will be planned when circumstances allow," said his Weil Funeral Home obituary.