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Remembering Marvin Paige

Remembering Marvin Paige

A large crowd filled the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood a
week ago Sunday to pay tribute to a man who touched many lives, including mine.
Marvin Paige died in November, following a car accident and a short hospital
stay, at the age of 86. He was such a ubiquitous presence in Hollywood, and in
our lives, that my family and I still can’t believe he’s gone. He was a longtime
casting director, but he had an even greater impact on our community in recent
years as the go-to guy for anyone who wanted to honor Hollywood veterans at
tributes and screenings. He was an invaluable resource and an eager escort. He
lived for this, and there is no one who can take his place.

Garret Boyajian and George Ridjaneck of GAB Entertainment
created a video salute to Marvin, and other clips were provided by Ross Hawkins
and Kevin Jordan. But I was most impressed with a speech delivered early in the
proceedings by my friend Randy Haberkamp of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences. It sums up Marvin so colorfully (and honestly) that I asked Randy
if I could reprint it. If you never met Marvin, this will give you a good idea
of what he was like; if you were lucky enough to know Marvin, I’m sure it will
make you smile.


ODE TO MARVIN by Randy Haberkamp


I’ve called
my little speech “Ode to Marvin.” I don’t know why. I think it’s because I
don’t want to get overly serious about Marvin Paige.  Because, quite frankly, Marvin was, as they
say, a character.

circumstances and particulars of meeting people for the first time usually get
cloudy as time passes.  After all, we
rarely know when we’re meeting someone who will have more than a passing
influence on our lives. If my memory is correct, I first met Marvin at the
Moustache Café on Melrose Avenue in 1989. I had offered to take him to lunch as
I’d been told he was someone I should meet who could help me with the celebrity
appearances we wanted to have at the first Cinecon to be held in Hollywood
after many years, in the hopes that it would become the convention’s permanent

It was the
first of many times that I would buy Marvin lunch. It was also the first of
many times when we would begin planning on whom we could get to attend various
film screenings and tributes. On that first day I wasn’t really sure whether
Marvin knew the people we were hoping to get, or whether he was just a guy who
was good at talking people into things. That didn’t really become clearer over
the years. All I know is that he would go to incredible lengths to track someone
down once his sights were set on them and he had an incredible mental rolodex
of where people were, what they had last done, and what their health situation

Over the
years I would work with Marvin for Cinecons, for the Hollywood Studio Museum
aka “the Barn” or Hollywood Heritage, and eventually and most recently at The
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In between there were dozens of
other places where films were screened or celebrated and Marvin was usually

I can’t paint
a complete picture of Marvin without mentioning that I did spend a lot of time
defending him. To be honest, I still do. Marvin wasn’t always an easy guy. He
was downright tenacious. When he was overseeing a personal appearance of a
celebrity at an event, he was right by their side from beginning to end, and
when he felt the celebrity wasn’t being treated properly or needed something,
he spoke up and made sure they got everything he felt they deserved. If Marvin
only knew the celebrity marginally and sometimes not at all, he still took it
upon himself to represent their interests whether they asked for it or not.

More than
once I’ve had to answer the question “Who is that guy?”    Sometimes this question would be followed
by “…and who does he think he is?” 
That’s Marvin Paige, I’d answer. He’s a casting director. The next
question would often be, “Why are all these older stars so loyal to him?”
Professionally many of us know that Marvin cast Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Take
the Money and Run
and later General
for many years…and most notoriously that he advised Gloria Stuart
that she should return James Cameron’s call when he was searching for his older
version of Rose for Titanic. Why,
indeed, where they so loyal to him?

It had taken
me a while to discover Marvin’s secrets. He was one of the most loyal fans any
classic movie star could hope to have. He knew people’s careers inside and out,
and he had actually SEEN their films (and continued to see them in revivals and
reruns on TV.) His interest went beyond his professional advancement or
survival as the case may be. He was invested.

But beyond
that, as many of you probably know, his real secret was that he was one of the
few people in Hollywood who made an effort to show his appreciation to some of
these classic actors in a way that actually meant something to them personally.
While working as the casting director for General
, Marvin would give these actors a small part for a day or
two.  Basically whatever it required to
keep their SAG health insurance active. 
Even years ago helping someone keep their health insurance was a great
way to also insure their loyalty. When Marvin asked those stars to appear at a
screening or to join in a party, they were not only willing, but grateful for
his attention and devotion.

Marvin also
knew that the way to a celebrity’s heart was actually through their family. He
not only paid attention to the star, but to the current wife or husband, the
son, the daughter, the grandson, the granddaughter, of course, since he had
some treasured cats of his own, even their pets.

Hollywood politics, it shouldn’t be surprising then, that this loyalty Marvin
had built up often irritated younger publicists, agents, or managers who
couldn’t figure all this out. Marvin was never deterred. Over the years I even
witnessed a few celebrities who felt a bit stifled by his attention but, again,
he was never deterred. 

If nothing
else, surviving in Hollywood takes guts, and Marvin had guts.  I learned over time that if you didn’t work
with him up front, you’d be working with him one way or another down the line.
More than once I’ve seen Marvin get the upper hand when someone thought THEY
were going to be the one in charge.

Marvin’s tenacity, he was amazingly easy to please. Though I knew I’d be hit up
for a lunch every time I needed his help, I never minded, because Marvin knew
that the organizations I was working for didn’t have money to pay him and he
never once asked me for money for himself. 

He would ask
for all kinds of arrangements for the various celebrities we were working with,
and I’d give them whatever accommodation I could, but other than some extra
tickets, some extra reception guests, or some extra programs or giveaways, I
never paid Marvin directly for his work. 

I have no
doubt he was able to receive income indirectly in other ways through the
connections and goodwill he made from the work we did together, but Marvin was
amazingly happy and content to see his classic stars in the spotlight he
thought they deserved.

Marvin was
extremely proud of his membership in the Academy and if you paid attention he
usually had an Academy pin on his lapel. I know because he lost a few over the
years and I was immediately hit up to supply him with replacements. He loved having
any Academy program or poster and I’m sure there’s a plentiful supply of them
from over the years among his stash of movie memorabilia. But that’s fine
because Marvin was always willing to share his treasures. Whenever we ran a
film, he’d stop by with posters, lobby cards, press books, stills….all kinds of
things he’d gathered together over the years.   

He was
equally proud of telling me stories of where he’d found his various treasures,
or stories of how he had given copies of the various photographs to the
celebrities who had never seen that particular photo before, or of how he had
managed to get them to autograph it. Marvin’s collection wasn’t just his
treasure, his collection was his memory.

I’m told that
Marvin was heading to the Academy for a screening of The Crowd when he was in the car crash that would result in the
injuries from which he was unable to recover. It’s unsettling of course, but
also somehow fitting.  He was in pursuit
of his love for movies right ‘til the end. We at the Academy suspected
something was wrong when he didn’t show up that night, because he had called
several times that day to confirm his tickets and change his guest list. When
Marvin didn’t show up for a screening of a classic film, it was noticed.

Since his
death I’ve had several meetings with people from various organizations who
inevitably ask a question something like, “Is there anyone who would know how
to reach the family of this actor or that actress?” “Is there anyone who would
know if there are any surviving cast members from this classic film? “

And while I
know there are lots of people IN Hollywood who know lots of people FROM
Hollywood, I can honestly say there isn’t anyone else who has quite the
perspective, quite the rolodex, or quite the love that Marvin had.  Ironically Marvin probably had the last
PHYSICAL Rolodex in town. Despite his tenacious nature, despite his ability to
aggravate, Marvin did provide a unique and very personal and very genuine
service to movie fans everywhere as he not only arranged personal appearances
here in LA, but for TV and DVD interviews as well. Los Angeles/Hollywood/the
Golden Age…what have you, is a little less golden.

There are
many things I don’t know about Marvin that I’m sure I’ll discover from other
stories here today. And maybe even a few things I’d be better off not knowing.
One thing I do know is that over the years Marvin managed to give quite a few
stars an opportunity to continue shining… with a boost to their morale if not
exactly their bank account, AND… he gave literally thousands of fans the
opportunity to meet those stars and perhaps even obtain an autograph, or better
yet, a cherished personal anecdote. 

I know that
Marvin helped the Academy present dozens of programs over the years that were
made special through the appearance of the filmmakers and for that reason I’m
glad that on behalf of the Academy I can publicly thank him, not only for his
service, but that I was able to get permission from the powers that be to help
cover the cost of today’s reception. It seemed only fitting that after all
Marvin’s help, there be another free lunch to share with his friends.

Thank you, American Cinemathèque,
for providing the Egyptian. Thank you, Hollywood Heritage, for your additional
support, and on behalf of the Academy and myself, thank you Marvin Paige,
somewhere in movie heaven.

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