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Baron Philippe de Rothschild Dies

January 20, 1988

PARIS (AP) _ Baron Philippe de Rothschild, a bearer of one of Europe’s most famous names who became in his own right one of the world’s foremost winegrowers as well as a writer and a sportsman, died Wednesday at the age of 85.

Rothschild, of the famous banking family, was also a noted theater director and film producer.

The Baron Philippe, as he was commonly known, had been in declining health for some time and died at his home in Paris, where he spent winters. He preferred residing at his Bordeaux chateau.

He remained a man of the land despite his wealth, his many awards and his active, many-faceted life. The enthusiasm for the outdoors began in 1922, when his father made him manager of the family’s Bordeaux vineyards, Mouton- Rothschild.

He took the run-down operation at Pauillac, a few miles outside Bordeaux, and turned it into a great establishment that produced one of the world’s finest wines and is visited by thousands of tourists each year.

His vineyard makes other wines, but it is Mouton-Rothschild Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux that is top of the line.

Rothschild was born in Paris on April 13, 1902, son of Baron Henri de Rothschild and the former Mathilde de Weisweiller.

His father sent him to Bordeaux for safety in 1918, the final year of World War I. He finished high school there and later received a doctorate in science at the University of Paris.

When he was put in charge of the vineyard, owned by the family since 1853, Bordeaux wines were in an economic crisis. The vineyard’s buildings were dilapidated, with no electricity, running water or telephones.

He acquired a neighboring property, Mouton d’Armailhacq, in 1933, which became Mouton Baron Philippe.

He lived at the Bordeaux chateau, hired top people and worked hard himself.

He also decreed that his wines would be bottled at the chateau and labeled that way, a practice not common years ago although now routine for fine wines.

Rothschild made Mouton-Rothschild a wine accepted as a peer to the four Premier Grand Crus established since 1855: Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Brion. That meant there were five ″Premier Grand Crus″ and they could be priced accordingly.

It was also in the 1920s that he became interested in theater. From 1924 to 1928, he built the Theatre Pigalle, and from 1928 to 1931, put on plays.

Among plays presented under Rothschild’s direction were Sacha Guitry’s ″Histoire de France,″ Jules Romains’ ″Donogoo-Tonka,″ and ″Judith″ by Jean Giraudoux.

In films, he was best known for producing ″Lacs aux Dames,″ with director Marc Allegret, in 1932, the first of the big French talkies.

His first wife, Countess Elisabeth Pelletier de Chambure, was deported by the Nazis in June 1944 and died in Ravensbruck concentration came in March 1945. They had a daughter, Philippine, mother of his three grandchildren.

After being imprisoned by the collaborationist Vichy government, Rothschild joined the Free French Forces in London in January 1943 and was a liaison officer during the Normandy landings in 1944.

He married Pauline Fairfax-Potter, daughter of a well-known Baltimore family, in 1954. She died in 1976.

Sports, particularly auto racing, were a passion with Rothschild and he often was behind the wheel himself. His Bugatti finished second in the German Grand Prix and fourth in the Monaco Grand Prix in 1929.

He twice ran in the Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing fifth in 1929 and abandoning the race the following year when his car caught fire.

Rothschild twice won the French Cup in eight-meter sailing.

He was the author of several books, poems, and even a fairy tale, written for his daughter. He probably was best known for his translations of English works, including those of Christopher Fry, Christopher Marlowe’s ″Dr. Faustus,″ and a book of Elizabethan poems.

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