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Bethlyn Hand, a former longtime senior executive at the Motion Picture Association of America, died on Feb. 14 of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 85.
Hand joined the MPAA soon after Jack Valenti was made president of the Hollywood trade association and stayed for 37 years. One of the most powerful female executives in the movie industry during the 1990s, she rose to become senior vice president of advertising and administration at MPAA and was selected by The Hollywood Reporter as one of Hollywood’s Most Powerful Women. “She was by my side at the very beginning of my tenure at the MPAA. I got a lot of credit for what she did,” Valenti said in 2003 on the occasion of Hand’s retirement from the MPAA.
During her long tenure, Hand became well-known in the industry for approving or declining movie marketing campaigns, according to the guidelines of the MPAA’s ratings program. In 1978, she rejected a trailer for the Hal Ashby film Coming Home as it showed Jane Fonda wearing her wedding ring while in bed with Jon Voight, playing a character who was not her husband. “I wouldn’t allow the wedding ring because it showed she was in a compromising position outside of her marriage. And now nobody cares,” Hand told the Associated Press in 2002.
She would often have Hollywood’s most powerful players pleading their case directly to her to get more racy or provocative content into trailers. “With the teenage movies, there’s always a lot more sex marketers want in the advertising than we will agree to. With a trailer, you’re a captive audience,” Hand once remarked.
Born on Jan. 30, 1938, Hand was raised in Houston, Texas before studying journalism at the University of Texas. Her brother Lloyd would go on to become Lyndon Johnson’s former Chief of Protocol. In 1966, she moved to Washington D.C. and joined the MPAA, working alongside Valenti. She moved to the MPAA’s Burbank, Los Angeles office in 1975 to head up the advertising division.
Hand was also a member of the public relations branch of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences and served on the Public Relations Coordinating Committee, which handles press matters during the Academy Awards. She also served as vice chairman of the California Film Commission.
She is survived by her brother Lloyd and sister-in-law Anna; her three nieces; her five great-nieces and nephews; and her four great-great-nieces and nephews.
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