Uplifting was the word from Bonita Granville Wrather, as the blond former actress hopped on a kitchen ladder to address a bunch of the top names in the movie biz.
The meeting of the board of the American Film Institute was the chance for the passing of the chairman's gavel to Wrather from the outgoing Richard Brandt, and the party at her Bel-Air home was a "thank you to Dick Brandt. Certainly not a goodby," the teeny Bunny Wrather said.
Charlton Heston, towering at least one foot taller than Wrather, then kiddingly climbed on the stool, his head disappearing up behind the doorway. But his words were serious. "We are proud, awed. We owe him a debt of gratitude."
The ladder situation got put in perspective by George Stevens Jr., co-chairman of AFI and its founding director. AFI is of course supposed to preserve and develop the nation's artistic and cultural resources in film--and that includes film history. Stevens said his father, directing Alan Ladd in the poignant funeral scene of "Shane," quietly told a prop man to bring over an apple box to boost up the actor. The prop man, not understanding the delicacy of the situation, yelled loudly to another hand, "Buster, give me a man-maker."
Stevens then pointed to Brandt's "specific accomplishment . . . by stubbornness and determination" he put together the "very complicated bond issue" that took care of the long-term financing of the AFI's new Hollywood campus.
Both the kidding and the thank-yous were right in line with the family feeling of the AFI board. Earlier, AFI Director Jean Firstenberg and Wrather listened as Stevens kidded producer Mike Frankovich about how he first heard him announce baseball games at Wrigley Field. There was a TV kept running upstairs, and a disgusted Frankovich later announced that for Angel fans, it was all over.
There was talk of, what else, movies. United Artists President Tony Thomopoulous had left the six-weeks-'til-baby Christina at home, but he and director Bud Yorkin (there with his steady, Cynthia Sykes) at least got a chance to mention "Karp," the Yorkin film in development at UA.
Stevens had a chance to hear from director Peter Werner, an AFI graduate, about his upcoming film for NBC, "Lyndon Johnson: The Early Years." Werner said the Bobby Kennedy portrayed in the film, which takes LBJ to his swearing-in on Air Force One, in some ways seems rather "two-dimensional," but that Kennedy was someone who grew and changed after his brother's assassination.
Other heavy hitters: major philanthropist Jill Sackler, (whose husband Arthur is giving the new Chinese museum at the Smithsonian); Creative Artists Agency's Michael Ovitz with wife, Judy; and Bruce and Toni Corwin (he gets honored Nov. 1 by the Children's Museum). CalArts Bob Fitzpatrick admired Walter Mirisch's rosette, showing he had been honored by the French government. Fitzpatrick admitted that the cleaner's had lost his rosette, but Mirisch said he give Fitzpatrick the spare he had at home.
The kudos continued Thursday, when Wrather received a special White House letter from her close friends, the President and First Lady, in which "Ron" wrote that "It has been more years than I care to count since I first met you when you played a 'Dead-End Kid'."
They've all done rather well in the movie biz, haven't they?
DEAD, DEAD, DEAD--Santa Monica's Midnight Special Bookstore is taking an opportunity this Halloween to host their first Dead Author Party. An "extensive list of dead authors" is available at the store if one doesn't know a favorite novelist to dress-up as.
HONORED--Joanne Carson and Monty and Marilyn Hall get the kudos Sunday at the Women in Show Business gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Proceeds go to children who need reconstructive and restorative surgery.