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Magical Pictures of Hollywood : Entertainers Buy Space in Book That Honors Industry's History

April 30, 1987|IDELLE DAVIDSON | Idelle Davidson is a Los Angeles free-lance writer. and

For many years, Gregory Peck has had a sweet picture hanging in his office that was taken during the filming of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"It's just a little photo," said Peck. "Mary Badham, the little girl--now a big girl and a mother and a breeder of quarter horses--just wandered over and put her arms around me and rested her head on my chest. Neither one of us was aware that it was being taken." Peck said the photo "expresses that trust that she had in me. She adopted me as a temporary father."

Peck chose the 25-year-old photo for "Happy Birthday, Hollywood! One Hundred Years of Magic," a book that is being published by the Motion Picture & Television Fund to benefit the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills.

Peck and about 100 celebrities and others involved in the entertainment industry each paid $1,500 to sponsor a page in the 240-page book, scheduled for bookstore release in May. The book will cost $39.95; there also is a special commemorative edition offered only through the Motion Picture & Television Fund offices for $75.

Robert Oettinger, associate director of the fund's capital campaign and co-editor of the book, said those who sponsored pages "saw this book as an important part of Hollywood's history. It was a mushrooming effect. They wanted to be part of it."

Money raised from book sales and other 100th birthday celebrations--including a star-packed party at the Shrine Auditorium that will be televised May 18--will be used for a $50-million capital fund to double the size of the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital to accommodate 600 people and expand related services.

"Currently, it takes five years for some people to get into the facilities," Oettinger said. "When you're 80 or 85 years old, that's too long to wait."

Pictures From Own File

Besides Peck, others who sponsored pages in the book are comedian Bob Hope, who has contributed $1 million to the Country House and Hospital; actresses Sharon Gless and Janet Leigh; actor Michael J. Fox; director Steven Spielberg, and entertainer Danny Thomas. The Writers Guild of America also is a sponsor. Each contributor could choose a picture of some aspect of the entertainment industry for his or her page.

Some, like Peck and Thomas, chose pictures from their own files. Thomas', taken in 1960, showed him around a work table with the cast and producers from the Danny Thomas Show.

Others selected photos of themselves or someone they admired from among 80,000 film industry photographs collected by Marc Wanamaker of Bison Archives, who was contacted by Oettinger for help on the book.

Oettinger and Peter Wert, editor of the book, eschewed movie-star glossies for behind-the-scene shots of industry professionals, including stars, make-up artists, cameramen and even a horse or two.

"It's known that Marc has the largest private collection in the world," Oettinger said. "He brought boxes and boxes to our office one day with maybe 4,000 photos in them. The amazing thing was, he could tell you the story behind each one."

From among Wanamaker's photographs, Gless selected one for her page featuring her favorite actress, Carole Lombard, with her husband and co-star, Clark Gable. "Sharon Gless was really ecstatic," Wanamaker said.

Spielberg requested one of his three favorite directors, Michael Curtiz, William Wellman or Victor Fleming. A photo of Fleming on the set of "Gone With the Wind," which he directed, was selected.

Janet Leigh said she "wanted the photo to be from one of the three classic films I was in," "Touch of Evil," "Psycho" and "The Manchurian Candidate." Wanamaker selected one of Leigh in the 1958 movie "Touch of Evil," which also starred Charlton Heston and Orson Welles and was directed by Welles. The photo "illustrated the drama of the picture," she said.

A Treasure Hunt

Wanamaker, who compares the thrill of discovering just the right historical photo to that of a treasure hunt, said 80% of the pictures in the book have not been printed at all or have not been printed in more than 30 years.

"The fund wanted a premium coffee-table book, not a book with little scrapbook pictures in it," said Wanamaker, 39. "They wanted a serious collector's book with an index that would teach about the history of the film industry as well as show behind the scenes."

Wanamaker worked with writer Michael Webb. "What Michael needed," Wanamaker said, "was for me to illustrate what he wrote about: from 1872, with the beginning of motion photography, all the way up to right now."

Wanamaker, who started collecting in the early 1970s while he was a production-staff liaison at the American Film Institute, said some of the more interesting subjects are not celebrities, such as Otto Mazzeti.

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