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Arnold M. Picker; Film Industry Figure

October 12, 1989|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Arnold M. Picker, former executive vice president of United Artists Pictures and a nationally prominent political fund-raiser for Democrats, has died at the age of 76.

He died Sunday of pneumonia at New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston.

As finance chairman for former Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie's 1972 presidential campaign, Picker became something of a political power broker. In 1980, he was considered the driving force behind Democrats for an Open Convention, a group of businessmen and officials who tried to prevent the nomination of either incumbent President Jimmy Carter or Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.)

Because of his work with Muskie, Picker was targeted by a 1971 plan of the Nixon White House to use Internal Revenue Service audits in what a memo called an effort "to screw our political enemies." According to secret memos given to the Senate Watergate Committee by John W. Dean III, counsel to President Richard M. Nixon, Picker was the No. 1 target on a priority list of 20 supposed "enemies."

Picker gained respect in the film industry for his efforts to foster the medium as art. He helped form the American Film Institute and was a co-founder of the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center at Florida International University in Miami.

He also served as chairman of the board of the National Center for Jewish Film set up by the American Jewish Historical Society at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

The son of Loews Theater executive David V. Picker, he began his career with Columbia Pictures in 1935 in its foreign department. Ten years later, he was named vice president in charge of foreign distribution for Columbia Pictures International Corp.

Picker switched to United Artists Pictures in 1951 as a partner and executive vice president in charge of international distribution.

"No executive to my knowledge was more respected and admired by those who were privileged to work with him," Arthur B. Krim, former chairman of United Artists Corp. and now chairman of the board of Orion Pictures, told Daily Variety after Picker's death.

President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Picker to the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Education and Cultural Affairs in 1965.

Picker is survived by his wife, two daughters, two brothers, and seven grandchildren.

Private services were conducted Wednesday in New York.

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