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Hollywood Publicist-Turned-Producer Walter Seltzer Dies at 96

Worked with Brando, Douglas and Heston -- was sole MPTF trustee to oppose closing of the fund's long-term care center

Walter Seltzer, Hollywood press agent-turned-movie producer working with Marlon Brando and Charlton Heston, died Friday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Woodland Hills retirement home, due to age related illness.

Born Nov. 7, 1914, in Philadelphia, his father owned and operated movie theaters in the city and his two brothers, Frank and Jules, were involved with movie advertising and later, feature film production. After working with his family, in the spring of 1935, he moved to Hollywood and got a job with Fox West Coast Theaters, moving into publicity, first at MGM, where he worked on many films starring Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable and others, then with Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures.

After a three-year stint in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, Seltzer joined Hal Wallis’ independent production company at Paramount, running advertising and publicity and working on the Martin & Lewis films, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and Charlton Heston. He then became a partner in the Hecht-Lancaster organization, and in 1954 he pioneered the business of campaigning for an Academy Award, with his creative efforts for “Marty,” which won four Oscars..

Two years later he moved into production. Along with his partner George Glass, became executive producer of Pennebaker, Inc., Marlon Brando’s independent production company. He produced “One Eyed Jacks,” starring Brando, along with “Paris Blues” with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Louis Armstrong, and Sidney Poitier; James Cagney’s “Shake Hands with the Devil”; “The Naked Edge,” Gary Cooper’s final picture.

In 1962 he created his own production company in 1962, and, in all, made 31 films, including Heston’s “Will Penny,” “Soylent Green,” and “The Warlord.”

Since 1980, Seltzer has served on the Board of Trustees for the Motion Picture & Television Fund.  He was the only trustee who objected to the controversial December 2008 decision to shutter the MPTF’s long-term care facility, according to the minutes of that meeting obtained by TheWrap.

Insisting that the board had an obligation to keep the facility open as part of the fund's organizational mission, he told TheWrap, “There were many, many different approaches that would have been better than the decision we took."

"I don't think they fully understand the implications of what was happening," Seltzer said.

Seltzer's protests were overpowered by the arguments of Dr. David Tillman, then CEO of the MPTF, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the MPTF's chief fundraiser. Tillman said the over 70-year-old service must end, because of the fund's $20 million budget shortfall and a worsening economy, the minutes of the meeting say.

The push to close the facility has resulted in a heated standoff between the fund's administration and a grassroots organization called Saving the Lives of Our Own. It also led to the ouster of Tillman as head of the organization.

Though no new residents have been taken in, the facility remains open and is down to 37 patients..

Seltzer had been a resident at the Fund’s retirement home for the last three years.