Jack Valenti - Rotten Tomatoes

Jack Valenti

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A decorated veteran, established writer, and longtime president and Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, Jack Valenti is, among many other things, the man primarily responsible with the now-familiar ratings system which dominates the American movie marketplace. A native of Houston, TX, at age 15, Valenti became the youngest graduate of the city's high school and soon went to work for the Humble Oil Company (which would eventually become Exxon). Soon taking to the skies in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Valenti flew over 50 combat missions as the pilot and commander of a B-25 bomber and was honored with numerous decorations including a Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal with four clusters. Returning to the U.S. to get his B.A. from the University of Houston, the tireless Valenti pounded the books by night while simultaneously holding down a day job. Following his graduation from Harvard with an M.B.A. a few short years later, Valenti ventured into business by co-founding Weekley and Valenti, an advertising/political consulting agency. A fateful meeting with then U.S. Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson found Valenti establishing a tie that would ultimately have a profound impact on his life, as Weekly and Valenti was in charge of the press during the tenure of President John F. Kennedy. Riding along with the presidential motorcade on that fateful day in Dallas on November 22, 1963, Valenti was quickly appointed the first newly appointed special assistant to President Johnson after President Kennedy's assassination. It was three short years later that Valenti would resign from the post and become only the third man ever in charge of the association that he would ultimately become most recognized for, the M.P.A.A. As the president of the M.P.A.A., Valenti rallied for a new, voluntary motion-picture ratings system that would provide parents with an indicator of a film's content. Following on the heels of the Hayes Code, the simple ratings of "G" (General Audiences), "M" (Mature Audiences), "R" (Restricted, persons under 16 [later 17] not admitted unless accompanied by an adult), and "X" (No one under 17 admitted) were implicated in 1968. Though over the years the ratings would occasionally experience slight changes ("M" would eventually become "PG" and "X" would become "NC-17" in an attempt to reclaim artistic merit from the former's association with pornography) and a few additions ("PG-13" was implicated in 1984 as a means of indicating a more intense subject matter meant for older teens), the basic concept remained intact. A specially assigned board of unknown individuals vote on a rating after viewing a certain film; the filmmakers are subsequently given the opportunity to appeal the rating if they feel it is unfair. Films released either without M.P.A.A. approval ("NR") or with the "NC-17" rating often find trouble with distribution as many large theater chains and rental outlets refuse to advertise or carry these films of more questionable or controversial content. Later years would find numerous challenges aimed at the M.P.A.A. with claims of major studio releases getting preferential treatment over smaller independent films. Nevertheless, Valenti and the M.P.A.A. continued to expand their ratings system to television and seek ways to adapt it to new technologies in addition to combating piracy. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, Valenti was also given his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in addition to being named a Life Member of the Director's Guild of America. In addition to his four books, Valenti's numerous essays have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Reader's Digest, and Newsweek. Valenti died in April of 2007 after suffering a stroke earlier in the year.



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