As an actor, Harry Lewis took second billing to the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson, most notably in the 1948 film noir "Key Largo."
But he found his own starring role as a Los Angeles restaurateur who helped usher in the concept of the "gourmet burger" when he launched the ground-breaking Hamburger Hamlet restaurant chain.
Hamburger Hamlet became that rare high-low hit.
Among the restaurant's regulars: Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Curtis -- all Mr. Lewis' buddies.
Hamburger Hamlet's ability to duplicate the dining experience from one restaurant to the next, from Los Angeles to Chicago and Washington, D.C., helped pave the way for similar concept restaurants that would follow, such as California Pizza Kitchen and Cheesecake Factory.
Mr. Lewis, 93, died June 9 at a convalescent home in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he had lived for the last two years. He had sold off the Hamburger Hamlet empire in the late 1980s and was disappointed at how its profile had fallen over the years. In its heyday, there were 24 outlets nationwide. Today, there are five, according to the company website.
Born in 1920 in Los Angeles, Mr. Lewis enlisted in the Army as a teenager, and got his first taste at acting in a World War II morale-boosting production called "Winged Victory," according to a family representative. After leaving the service, Mr. Lewis worked steadily as a contract actor for Warner Bros. in the 1940s. He had long dreamed of owning his own hamburger joint, but it wasn't until he partnered with a woman named Marilyn Friedman that the dream took off.
On their first date, Mr. Lewis shared his vision for a place that served distinctive hamburgers and other homey fare.
The two launched their first restaurant on Hilldale Avenue and Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles in 1950 before they were even married.