(Refresh for latest…) Jack Valenti has died after falling into a coma following a series of strokes. The 85-year-old Valenti was the Washington D.C. lobbyist for Hollywood’s movie studios and independent producers from 1966 to 2004 as president of the Motion Picture Association of America, where under his supervision starting in 1968 the movie industry developed the ratings system for films. Because of that, Sony Pictures co-chairmen Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal said today, “Perhaps a fitting way to describe Jack is to say this man is rated “G” – for Greatness.”
Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, explained how the motion picture industry owes Valenti “a tremendous debt of gratitude. For nearly four decades, he faithfully and vigorously protected the rights of the film community, and was the most eloquent spokesperson that Hollywood ever could have hoped for. In addition to his role in creating the film rating system, he sought to protect intellectual properties and ensure that new technologies had the proper and necessary safeguards.” Many in Hollywood embraced Valenti as an integral member of their inner circle of intimates. “Today, my heart is truly heavy. I have lost a dear friend and mentor — someone who not only made a mark in history, but also had a profound impact on my life,” said Valenti’s longtime pal, Barry Meyer, chairman / CEO of Warner Bros. “Jack Valenti was a true leader and gentleman whose wit, fire and passion for our business inspired everyone regardless of politics or opinion, background or belief.” (See my Studio Moguls Mark Jack Valenti’s Passing.) Before the MPAA, Valenti was the Democratic political operative who was LBJ’s closest pal and later White House special adviser. In November 1963, LBJ, then VP, asked Valenti to handle press relations during then President JFK’s swing through Texas. Valenti was in the presidential motorcade in downtown Dallas when Kennedy was fatally shot Nov. 22 and accompanied the newly sworn-in Johnson back to Washington that night on Air Force One. He appeared in the famous photograph showing Johnson taking the oath of office aboard the plane. The handsome and debonair white-haired Texan looked in fine shape until he suffered a stroke in late March. He has since been hospitalized at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore. When he fell ill, Meyer spoke for the Valenti family and said doctors were encouraged by his progress. Valenti’s wife Mary Margaret asked that no additional information be made public at that time. Valenti’s memoir, This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House, and Hollywood comes out in June. A private mass for Valenti will be held in Washington. Obits are now online: The New York Times, Washington Post, Time, AP.
(DHD was first with the news of Valenti’s death.)