Obituaries for June 5, 2009

Arthur H. Canton, 1920-2009

Arthur H. Canton, who as one of the film industry’s most prominent public relations and marketing executives helped such filmmakers as Sam Spiegel, Arthur Hitchcock, Marlon Brando and Sidney Poitier introduce their movies to the public, died Wednesday at the Oceanview Convalescent Hospital in Santa Monica following a brief illness. He died just a few days short of his 89th birthday, which would have been on Monday.

In the late 50’s, Canton joined forces with Bill Blowitz to form the Canton & Blowitz public relations and marketing agency. The firm, with offices in New York and L.A., went on to represent such producers and directors as Spiegel, Hitchcock, Elia Kazan, Ingmar Bergman, Robert Aldrich and Carlo Ponti along with such era-defining films as “Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Suddenly, Last Summer,” “On the Waterfront,” “Splendor in the Grass” and “Streetcar Named Desire.”

It also worked with stars like Brando, Poitier, Warren Beatty, Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, among many others.

Canton & Blowitz even helped oversee the media coverage of Martin Luther King’s historic March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.

Born in New York City in 1920, Canton cut short his studies at New York University to become an officer in the Army Air Corps, where he served as a bombardier. On his 14th mission, prior to the Allies’ D-Day invasion, his plane was shot down over Calais, France, and he was incarcerated as a POW and was missing in action for 18 months before being liberated by the Russians. He received a medal from the French government in ceremonies in Normandy commemorating D-Day’s 50th anniversary.

Following his discharge from the service, he and his brother-in-law, Sanford Weiner, formed Canton-Weiner Films and produced the 1949 Oscar-winning short, “Van Gogh,” directed by Alain Resnais.

In the early 50’s, Canton joined MGM’s legendary public relations department, where he rapidly rose through the ranks to eventually direct marketing activities for the eastern portion of the United States and all of Canada.

After more than a decade heading his own firm, Canton returned to the studio ranks, joining Columbia Pictures as a senior marketing exec in New York in 1971. He subsequently also had a production deal at Warner Bros. in Los Angeles.

A long-time member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he served on the executive committee of the public relations branch.

Married for 50 years to the former Shirley Weiner, who died in 1996, Canton established his own Hollywood dynasty. His two sons, Neil Canton and Mark Canton, became prominent producers in their own right.

In addition to Neil and Mark, Arthur Canton is survived by five grandchildren: Gabrielle, Miles, Dorothy, Henry and James.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. at Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in his memory to the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation.