By  on February 25, 2008

Max L. Raab, founder of The Villager and J.G. Hook and a producer of such films as "A Clockwork Orange" and "Walkabout," died Thursday at his home in Philadelphia of complications from Parkinson's disease. Raab was 82.

With a knack for identifying trends and recognizing the emergence of the Ivy League look, Raab created The Villager with his brother, Norman, in 1958 and later founded J.G. Hook in 1974, which helped define preppie American sportswear.

Born in Philadelphia in 1926, Raab attended Rutgers Preparatory School and the Wooster Academy. He was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II and served in Germany and Japan. After returning from Japan, Raab started working for his father's blouse company, Morgan Raab. At the time, he noticed that women were wearing their fathers' or husbands' button-down shirts and he decided to create a women's version. That led to the creation of The Villager clothing company.

At its peak, The Villager generated around $140 million in sales and grew to become one of the most important brands at that time until the late Sixties, when countercultural looks took off. Raab also started the Rooster Tie Co., which was known for its unconventional approach to neckwear using nontraditional fabrics.

While Raab found tremendous success in the apparel business, he had a hankering to pursue his other love, movies.

As Raab explained to WWD in 1998, while watching the filming of "David and Lisa" in Philadelphia in the early Sixties, he cut a deal with the film's crew: he would provide the cast with Villager apparel, and in return, would be allowed to spend three months on the set, watching the action, asking questions and learning the business. After the three months were up, he acquired the film rights to John Barth's novel, "End of the Road." With director Aram Avakian and writer Terry Southern, they adapted the novel for a film that featured the screen debuts of James Earl Jones and Stacy Keach. Raab then purchased the film rights to Anthony Burgess' controversial novel, "A Clockwork Orange." After being turned down by all the major studios because of its violent subject matter, director Stanley Kubrick showed interest in the story. Warner Bros. called Raab and made him executive producer of the 1971 film. That was followed by "Walkabout" and "Lions Love."

 

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