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Valenti: 'A Giant Voice of Reason'

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Valenti: 'A Giant Voice of Reason'

Remembrances

Valenti: 'A Giant Voice of Reason'

Valenti: 'A Giant Voice of Reason'

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Jack Valenti died Thursday at the age of 85. He was the former president of the Motion Picture Association of America, and an influential person in American culture for decades.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now, "Jindabyne" is rated R, one of the ratings that commercial films have carried since 1968. The man responsible for that rating system, Jack Valenti, has died.

Mr. JACK VALENTI (Former MPAA President): Some of these movies, they just turn my stomach, and I don't want to watch them. But I have a right not to watch them.

INSKEEP: Valenti's goal was to make it easier for parents to know what their kids might see. He was a former aide to President John F. Kennedy who was in the motorcade in Dallas when Kennedy was shot.

Mr. VALENTI: If I had to give you a four-word capsule summary of that day, it would be from one of the Yeats's poems in which he said the ceremony of innocence is drowned.

INSKEEP: Valenti later left the government to lead the Motion Picture Association of America. Hollywood had avoided government censorship by censoring movies itself. By the 1960s, movies were becoming more racy and the industry held off protests with the ratings system. That dismayed some filmmakers who might have to change their movies to get the proper rating or risk failure.

Mr. VALENTI: It is very difficult to tell a director to take a scene out of his picture if he doesn't want to do it, because he says I have a right to tell my story, and I agree they have a right.

INSKEEP: But Valenti insisted parents had a right to know what their kids might see. He was criticized over the years for being tougher on sex than on violence, but after his death of complications from a stroke at age 85, the director Steven Spielberg called Jack Valenti a giant voice of reason.

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Valenti, Power Broker in Film World, D.C., Dies at 85

Valenti, Power Broker in Film World, D.C., Dies at 85

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Music-industry lobbyist Hillary Rosen and MPAA president Jack Valenti confer at a Capitol Hill press conference in March 2003. The two were vocal leaders in the entertainment industry's anti-digital piracy crusade. Rebecca Roth/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Rebecca Roth/Getty Images

Music-industry lobbyist Hillary Rosen and MPAA president Jack Valenti confer at a Capitol Hill press conference in March 2003. The two were vocal leaders in the entertainment industry's anti-digital piracy crusade.

Rebecca Roth/Getty Images

Jack Valenti (far left) looks on as Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in aboard Air Force One on Nov. 22, 1963. LBJ Library Photo by Cecil Stoughton hide caption

toggle caption LBJ Library Photo by Cecil Stoughton

Jack Valenti (far left) looks on as Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in aboard Air Force One on Nov. 22, 1963.

LBJ Library Photo by Cecil Stoughton

Former film-industry lobbyist and presidential adviser Jack Valenti has died, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Valenti, 85, had been hospitalized since a stroke last month.

In nearly four decades as president of the MPAA, Valenti devised the ratings system for films and represented Hollywood's interests in the nation's capital.

In one famous 1982 congressional hearing, Valenti argued that "the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone." He remained active in shaping public policy on digital piracy and copyright until retiring from the MPAA in 2004.

Before taking the helm at the MPAA, Valenti served as an adviser to Lyndon Johnson, beginning on the fateful day Johnson became president.

Valenti, then a public-relations professional hired to handle the press during President John F. Kennedy's visit to Dallas, was riding in the presidential motorcade Nov. 22, 1963. After Kennedy was assassinated, Valenti was whisked aboard Air Force One for Johnson's famous flight back to Washington; he was drafted as a special assistant to the new president.

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