At the Movies
Lawrence Van Gelder
Published: October 30, 1987
Dawn Steel to Columbia
''As they said in a Paramount movie, he made me an offer I couldn't refuse.''
That's Dawn Steel - former head of production of Paramount Pictures, home of ''The Godfather'' - quoting the movie on the subject of Hollywood dealings. And the offer she couldn't refuse was the chance to become president of Columbia Pictures, which she has just become.
''Victor Kaufman,'' she said, ''called me one day last week and -you know - 'Let's meet.' We spent a lot of time together over the next four days, and then he offered me this great job.'' Mr. Kaufman, of course, is the chairman and chief executive office of Tri-Star Pictures, who will become president and chief executive of Coca-Cola's new Columbia Pictures Entertainment Inc. when a restructuring of its entertainment assets is approved.
And Ms. Steel accepted the offer. ''Obviously,'' she said yesterday, ''my goals are to make good movies and earn some money for Columbia.''
Still, you could have your name on the door and a carpet on the floor, but what's life at the top without power? So while everybody knows that the talented Ms. Steel (do ''Top Gun,'' ''The Untouchables'' and ''Fatal Attraction'' ring a bell?) has succeeded the talented (but controversial) David Puttnam (''Chariots of Fire'' ''The Killing Fields'') in the top spot at Columbia Pictures, there was a steady buzz out there, some of it definitely waspish, about the extent of her authority.
Ms. Steel, gimlet-eyed readers of the fine print noted, had been given the title of president of the motion picture operation of Columbia Pictures, and Mr. Puttnam's old title - chairman - had been mothballed.
So people were wondering just how much clout Ms. Steel would have when it came to giving the green light to projects. Ms. Steel said she couldn't compare her authority to Mr. Puttnam's. ''I don't know how much power he had - I don't know how to answer,'' she said.
But Mr. Kaufman did have an answer. And the way he put it, Ms. Steel is the creative executive, who will pick the films Columbia will make; and he sees his job as making sure there's a mix of movies, and a full schedule, as well as preventing budgets from getting out of hand. So there it is. Stay tuned, because next time Ms. Steel needs to find a quote from a movie to make a point, she expects it to be a quote from a Columbia picture. Oscars on the Move
Just when it was becoming clearer than ever that death and taxes aren't what they used to be, along comes Robert Wise to tell us, yes, we can mark our calendars for Monday, April 11, 1988, and the annual awards ceremony of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - or, to keep it short, Oscar night.
Of course, as the daily fever charts from Wall Street indicate, nothing really does stay the same, and Mr. Wise, the eminent producer and director who is the academy's president, said next year's event will mark a literal departure.
The ceremonies will be moving from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles Civic Center to the Shrine Auditorium. Mr. Wise gave two reasons: a Shrine schedule that will allow a few extra days' rehearsal for the show, produced once again by Samuel Goldwyn Jr. (''We'd like to keep it down to three hours if we can,'' Mr. Wise said); and extra seating capacity. With about 5,500 seats, the Shrine Auditorium will accommodate twice the audience, including many members of the academy who were previously unable to get tickets.
''This is our 60th year,'' Mr. Wise said. ''The theme and thrust of the whole show will be all around the 60 years of the academy.''
The academy embraces some 4,700 members, Mr. Wise said, about 400 of them in the New York metropolitan area. He was in town recently in preparation for a gala evening in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria on Nov. 10, when a tribute will be held for Johnny Mercer, whose 40-year career as a Hollywood songwriter earned him 18 Academy Award nominations and four Oscars - for ''On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,'' ''In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,'' ''Moon River'' and ''Days of Wine and Roses.''
Scheduled to entertain during the tribute, titled ''Mercer and the Movies'' and written by Larry Gelbart of ''M*A*S*H'' fame, are Andy Williams, Henry Mancini, Rosemary Clooney, Lonette McKee, Ellen Greene, Levi Stubbs, Diane Schuur, Jane Powell, Harold Nicholas and Bobby Short.
''One of the features,'' Mr. Wise said, ''is not only the entertainers, but the marvelous film clips. We'll probably have 15 to 18 songs out of film clips interspersed with live entertainment.''
And, he said, tickets for the black-tie reception, dinner and show -priced at $300 and $500 and tax deductible to the extent allowed by law - are available by calling Randi Kaye at 614-0400.
The Academy Foundation, the beneficiary of the event, maintains the Margaret Herrick Library, one of the world's foremost repositories of film books and periodicals as well as archives left by film makers; the Academy Film Archives, a treasury of film and a hive of preservation, and the National Film Information Service, which fielded 23,000 questions about movies telephoned in last year from around the world. In addition, the foundation administers a program of scholarships, grants, programs and lectures.