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Glitterati Converge for Classic Cause

September 29, 1997|IRENE LACHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Marty's kids were everywhere.

Martin Scorsese called and they came to support his burgeoning campaign to save L.A.'s endangered species--classic films.

"If Marty was having a slide show in malaria-infested swampland--and a bad slide show--I'd show up," said Michael Keaton, who emceed Thursday's gala dinner at the vintage El Rey Theater. The event to raise funds for film preservation was hosted by the American Movie Classics cable channel, which joined forces with Scorsese's Film Foundation.

Keaton had plenty of company. Carly Simon bested her notorious stage fright to give a poised performance of songs from her new album, "Film Noir," which serendipitously captured the theme for the evening.

And every Hollywood generation old enough to drink showed up in force--from Winona Ryder to Jane Russell, Vince Vaughn to Rosemary Clooney, as well as Rod Steiger, Robert Altman, Daryl Hannah, Gina Gershon, Jennifer Beals, Jacqueline Bisset, Eva Marie Saint, AMC host Bob Dorian, Martin Landau, AMC President Kate McEnroe, Billy Bob Thornton, Lesley Ann Warren, Tim Burton and Lisa Marie, Joe Pesci, Debi Mazar, Talisa Soto, Kyra Sedgwick and Billy Baldwin.

Not least among the 250 guests was Lauren Bacall, the only honoree to attend. Others saluted that evening were Kirk Douglas, Billy Wilder and Robert Mitchum. The revelers, given a choice of black or white attire, mostly opted for--guess what?

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If film preservation is a cause recommended for children of all ages, Scorsese said that the emergence of new blood has given impetus to efforts to turn back time. He noted that half of all films made on nitrate stock before 1950 have already been lost.

"We're the generation who didn't make the films," he said. "We saw them in theaters and we want them to last. The people who made them never thought about the future, about television, about video."

Scorsese and other major filmmakers, including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, formed the Film Foundation seven years ago to funnel money to six member archives.

AMC, a longtime supporter of the foundation, raised more than $1 million this year for the organization, partly from the film preservation benefit--its first--and from sales of Simon's CD.

It took a classic film actress like Jane Russell to explain why everything old is for new audiences.

"I think we had stories then and actors who could articulate instead of mumbling," she said. "And we didn't have crash scenes every two seconds. We had writers and stories. We've lost the stories. It's more like a circus entertaining children."

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