Let me tell you about a motion picture you’ve never seen. It’s a movie you’ve probably never even heard of. The title of the film is, “Concept,” and it was produced and directed by my dear friend, the late, Jim Fletcher. The motion picture was created for the Hollywood Museum project and it’s a fascinating story that takes us back to the Walt Disney Studios in the early sixties, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
I was speaking with a Los Angeles journalist who had recently seen the interesting and unusual motion picture. The screening took place at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. What was this odd movie he wondered, and why would the Disney Studios be in procession of the only print? I told the journalist I was not only aware of the film, but I had even worked on the project decades ago. “Concept” was the motion picture sales pitch for the Hollywood Museum. A museum that would celebrate the history of the motion picture industry and the pioneers of this marvelous medium called, movie making. The Hollywood Museum would be a massive film archive and a repository of movie scripts, costumes and other memorabilia of motion picture production. Naturally, there would be interviews and recordings of film directors, actors and screenwriters all available to the eager film student doing his or her research. The Museum Project had the backing of the Hollywood elite as well as the generous support of Walt and Roy Disney. However, more on that in a moment.
An avid movie buff, Jim Fletcher was a good friend of the late actress, Debbie Reynolds. Ms Reynolds had been collecting movie costumes that she hoped would one day find a permanent home in a museum celebrating movie making. At the time no such venue existed but it didn’t stop a group of Hollywood notables working together to create such a museum. Better yet, Hollywood civic leaders had already donated a sizable chunk of property across from the Hollywood Bowl to be the museum’s permanent home. Still, a museum of that size would be a sizable investment and constructing the state of the art facility would cost millions. Could the money be raised, they wondered? Jim Fletcher had an idea. What if he utilized Hollywood’s considerable star power and the support of the major studios to get the ball rolling. Perhaps local politicians might even decide to lend a hand. It was hardly a crazy idea. Millions of film buffs flocked to Tinsel Town every year. A Museum celebrating the movies could generate millions from eager tourists visiting La La Land from around the world.
The Walt Disney Studios was the first Hollywood major to show their generosity. Walt and Roy Disney were totally committed to the museum project and opened their studio doors to the museum project. Producer, Jim Fletcher and his team moved into a wing on the second floor of the Animation Building to begin their work on what would be an elaborate sales pitch to Hollywood’s elite. Before long, Fletcher had a list of movie celebrities tacked to his storyboards. It was an impressive list that included, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Debbie Reynolds, Art Linkletter, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Nat King Cole, Edward G. Robinson and singer, Peggy Lee to name a few. The Disney artists began to snicker behind Fletcher’s back. How was he going to get this list of Hollywood notables to lend their talents without pay? The mocking abruptly stopped one Monday morning as Jim Fletcher walked to his Disney office with a tall, distinguished gentleman by his side. Our jaws dropped as we looked up from our animation drawing boards to see the celebrated actor, Gregory Peck. Apparently, my pal was going to make a movie after all, and he seemed to have no problem signing up an impressive list of top Hollywood stars.
To be continued.