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Quick Takes: 'Hobbit' animal deaths

November 20, 2012

Animal wranglers involved in the making of "The Hobbit" movie trilogy say the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals, largely because they were kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other "death traps."

The American Humane Assn., which oversaw animal welfare on the movies, says no animals were harmed during the actual filming. But it also says the wranglers' complaints highlight shortcomings in its oversight system, which monitors film sets but not the facilities where the animals are housed and trained.

A spokesman for trilogy director Peter Jackson on Monday acknowledged that horses, goats, chickens and one sheep died at the farm near Wellington, New Zealand, where about 150 animals were housed for the movies, but he said some of the deaths were from natural causes.

The spokesman, Matt Dravitzki, agreed that the deaths of two horses were avoidable, and said the production company moved quickly to improve conditions after they died.

—Associated Press

Paper's sorry for role in blacklist

The son of Hollywood Reporter founder Billy Wilkerson has apologized for his father's and the trade paper's role in the 1947 Hollywood blacklist that destroyed the careers of writers, actors and directors accused of having communist ties.

In an article published Monday by the Reporter, Willie Wilkerson, 61, called the blacklist era "Hollywood's Holocaust" and said, "On the eve of this dark 65th anniversary, I feel an apology is necessary."

He said his father supported the blacklist to exact revenge against the Hollywood titans he felt denied him entry to their club when he wanted to establish a movie studio in the late 1920s. Billy Wilkerson founded the Hollywood Reporter in 1930 and after World War II used the paper as a vehicle for a series of editorials attacking communist sympathizers and their influence in Hollywood.

Willie Wilkerson said it's possible that his father would have apologized for "creating something that devastated so many careers" had he lived long enough. He died in 1962.

—Associated Press

A new address at Gettysburg

Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg expressed a sense of humility Monday as he delivered the keynote address during ceremonies marking the 149th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

"I've never stood anyplace on Earth where it's easier to be humbled than here," said Spielberg, whose biopic about the 16th president is currently in theaters.

His remarks were made at the annual event at the Soldier's National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa., near the site where Lincoln gave the famous oration amid the American Civil War in 1863, four months after the battle in which the Union turned back an invasion of the North by Confederate troops under Gen. Robert E. Lee.

"Lincoln wanted us to understand that equality was a small 'D' democratic essential," Spielberg said, describing Lincoln's three-minute speech as "his best and truest voice" and the single "most perfect prose poem ever penned by an American."

—Associated Press

Christmas spirit on local radio

The weather is far from frightful and it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but local radio is alive with the sounds of Christmas.

Both KOST-FM (103.5) and KTWV-FM (94.7) switched to all-holiday-music formats last Thursday, and satellite radio service SiriusXM has two full-time holiday music channels going, with five more to be added in December.

KOST has been utilizing the end-of-the-year holiday music format since 2001and in recent years has been rewarded with the No. 1 spot in the Arbitron ratings.

Among the new entries on its playlist this year are Lady Antebellum's "A Holly Jolly Christmas," Chris Mann's "O Come All Ye Faithful" and Train's "Joy to the World."

—Lee Margulies

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