Veteran Hollywood publicist talks movies, memories

AP News
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Posted: Jan 11, 2016 2:28 PM
Veteran Hollywood publicist talks movies, memories

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Publicist Dick Guttman, a prominent part of the Hollywood dream machine for 60 years, is sharing memories and his favorite movies with Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne.

Guttman, who worked with stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Gary Cooper and Warren Beatty, joins Osborne at 8 p.m. EST Monday to introduce "Love in the Afternoon," followed by "Bonnie and Clyde," ''The Bad and the Beautiful" and "Sullivan's Travels."

Still on the job at age 82 with his own agency, Guttman is the first publicist to join the list of TCM guest programmers that includes Spike Lee and Tina Fey. He delves deeper into his career in his 600-plus page memoir "Starflacker: Inside the Golden Age of Hollywood."

Guttman became known as a master practitioner of the Oscar campaign, helping draw academy voters' attention to films including 2011's "The Artist" and 2010's "The King's Speech," both of which earned multiple nominations and awards, including best picture.

But it's what he calls "the human factor" that he most relishes.

Guttman recalled an encounter with Greer Garson, the Oscar-winning star of 1942's "Mrs. Miniver," as she arrived for an Academy Awards ceremony decades later, when she was in her mid-70s.

"The door opened to the limousine and this pair of long legs came out, with a dress slit up to the top. She extended a hand, so elegantly, to be taken from the car and I said, 'Still the best gams in Hollywood.' She pressed her cheek to mine and said, 'Dear boy.'"

"You can take that to the bank, emotionally," Guttman added.

He greatly admires Kirk Douglas, who stars in the Hollywood melodrama "The Bad and the Beautiful," as an artist and for his "courage and determination to break the back of the blacklist" of industry members accused of communist ties.

"He's about as cuddly as a cactus, but he's the most amazing man I ever met," Guttman said.

He doesn't mince words in comparing the industry past and present.

Under the now-vanished studio system, "Hollywood had a drive to make good movies. As much as we've become accustomed to despising the moguls — and they weren't a nice bunch of people — they could make good movies and they wanted to. And they made great stars."

At the 1940 Oscars alone, he said, every one of the 10 best-picture nominees became a classic, including winner "Gone with the Wind," ''Ninotchka," ''Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "The Wizard of Oz."

Now, he said, there are talented filmmakers but it's often "the bottom line driving the films that are made."

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Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/lynn-elber and she can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber