Everyone loves a good happy ending — and Hollywood is the best at providing them. At least on the screen. But spend some time in Los Angeles, and you'll find much sadder endings for down-and-out actors — particularly older ones in retirement. Many end up indigent and on public assistance.
The Motion Picture & Television Fund is supposed to help such people, but has faced harsh criticism in recent years for not doing enough. Now it's writing its own comeback story. The charity, which focuses on providing funds for struggling actors and entertainment workers young and old, has raised over $240 million since last year.
The white knights of the fundraising are some of show business' biggest players, including producer Steve Bing, and DreamWorks Studios executives David Geffen, Steven Spielberg, and Jeffrey Katzenberg (who each provided $30 million to the fund). Media bigwig Barry Diller and his fashion designer wife, Diane von Furstenberg, also donated more than $30 million. Actor Kirk Douglas and his wife Anne gave $20 million.
The organization was established in 1921 by some of the most famous movie legends, including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith, with the goal of helping actors and studio workers who had fallen on hard times. Since then the charity has grown to include healthcare and retirement services and the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills. The hospital opened back in 1940, but has received negative attention recently for almost deciding to boot more than 130 elderly patients about four years ago.
Now with the recent donations and a celebrity campaign co-chair (no less than Mr. George Clooney), the charity is experiencing a great resurgence. The fund's president, Bob Beitcher, said in an interview with The Chronicle of Philanthropy, "What the controversy taught us was that we had drifted further from our community than we had thought. We needed to recognize the emotions involved and work with the people who had them."
By refocusing on their goals — with the motto of "We take care of our own" — the charity is now able to help more than 150,000 people a year. With more than 75,000 members of the Hollywood community expecting to turn 65 by the year 2020, even more people will be in need of the charity's services. The fund hopes to raise enough money to include more long-term and dementia care and help with assisted living.
Katzenberg, who recently announced he will leave the fund $30 million in his will, said, "I tell people that those of us who are lucky enough to have the most well-rewarded careers here should feel responsible about caring for those who have fallen on the hardest times."
It’s easy to forget that all of those working in the industry aren't rich and famous. Most are working without the recognition or benefits of having a name splashed across magazine covers. With the help of this charity, those behind the scenes will still be taken care of.