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Minnelli's Work Praised at Services

July 31, 1986|JERRY BELCHER | Times Staff Writer

Motion picture director Vincente Minnelli was eulogized Wednesday by actors Gregory Peck and Kirk Douglas as an artist whose work will live as long as there are films.

The 83-year-old Minnelli, winner of an Oscar for "Gigi" and director of other musical classics such as "Meet Me in St. Louis," died Friday after a long struggle against emphysema.

The funeral service at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park Glendale's Wee Kirk o' the Heather was crowded with more than 125 mourners, including his daughter, singing star Liza Minnelli; comedian Bob Hope; singer Kenny Rogers; actors Jimmy Stewart and Ricardo Montalban; composer Henry Mancini, and producer Jack Haley Jr.

Singer Michael Jackson entered the chapel with Liza and the director's widow, Lee Minnelli, on each arm. He sat with them and Minnelli's other daughter, Christiane Nina Miro of Mexico, throughout the service.

Brief Service

Father George O'Brien of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills conducted the brief Catholic service.

The familiar voices of Peck and Douglas, both of whom were directed in movies by Minnelli, were piped outside for the benefit of about 125 news photographers and reporters, Minnelli fans and others who said they came less to mourn the director than to see the entertainment stars.

Peck called Minnelli "a man who literally gave his life to reach for the distant star, to create works that 100 years later will glow with life and power."

He was, Peck said, not only an artist but "a showman who knew how to give them the old razzle-dazzle."

Peck recalled working with Lauren Bacall in a Minnelli-directed comedy: "He'd shout out just before every scene, with that big grin of his, 'All right folks, light up your noses!' And it was perfect direction."

Peck also read telegrams of condolence from President Reagan and from the French Minister of Culture, Francois Leotard.

"Goodbys don't always have to be sad," Douglas said, "because Vincente left us with much to be happy about. I was happy that Vincente directed me in three films. I was lucky . . . I loved Vincente, but I found that he was a difficult man to know.

"Enigmatic Vincente with that boyish laugh. . . . He was a man of mystery; the mystery unfolds in his work, in the vivid memories he has given the world for generations to come. . . ."

Left Legacy

Douglas said Minnelli left a legacy of "adventures in love, laughter and wonderment" and urged the director's friends to "think of youngsters in the year 2000 listening to Judy Garland (the director's first wife and Liza's mother) singing 'The Trolley Song'. . . ." Peck and Douglas both made special mention of Liza.

Peck said that for him, the "perfection" of Liza's performance at the Statue of Liberty celebration on July 4 was the high point of that event.

"And during the last few days," he said, "I've been thinking of how much of Vincente there was in Liza's performance, that sensibility that is beyond professionalism . . . to the point that transcends reality."

Douglas said Vincente left beautiful memories.

Daughter's Tribute

"But," he said, "the one I treasure most is Liza's tribute to her father on the stage of the Palm Springs Museum. Liza brought Vincent up on stage, and he sang to her, in a sweet voice, his favorite song, 'Embraceable You'. . . ."

As the mourners left the chapel, the organ was playing "Embraceable You."

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