If his career had ended in 1968, Bert Schneider would be remembered as the impresario behind The Monkees the fictional, made-for-TV quintet who through their popular sitcom and an ensuing string of tours and recordings became genuine rock superstars. But Schneider, who won an Emmy for the show in 1967, was just getting started. With his Monkees proceeds as capital, he produced 1969's classic counterculture biker film Easy Rider changing Hollywood forever and inspiring a generation of politically charged, countercultural filmmakers.
Easy Rider like Schneider's other important movies Five Easy Pieces and The Last Picture Show was designed to unsettle: at a screening of the film for Columbia Pictures executives, all but one walked out (including the producer's own father, former Columbia president Abraham Schneider). But Bert had no problem being provocative: a friend of '60s radicals including Abbie Hoffmann and Huey Newton, he accepted an Academy Award for his 1974 war documentary Hearts and Minds by reading a "message of peace" from the North Vietnamese government.
Schneider, who died at age 78, was married four times and is survived by a son and a daughter. Whether remembered for his pop-oriented or provocative work, his greatest legacy is introducing film-school sensibilities into the moviemaking process. "This was a beginning of the independent movies," producer-director Bob Rafelson, a collaborator on Easy Rider, told the Los Angeles Times. "Bert broke with everybody's rules."