Tireless industry champion Jack Valenti dies at 85

Former MPAA chief instituted ratings

Jack Valenti, the eloquent, high-level power broker who reigned as head of the MPAA for almost four decades and was responsible for the institution of the movie ratings system, has died (HR 4/27). He was 85.

Valenti died Thursday evening at his home in Washington surrounded by family and friends. He had a stroke in late March, and had checked out of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Tuesday after about month there.

A diminutive Texan who used big words and wielded even bigger clout in the corridors of Hollywood and Washington, Valenti became one of the most powerful and respected men in Washington even as he defined a trade — lobbyist — that often has lacked respect. He joined the MPAA in 1966 and retired in 2004.

Upon learning of his death, the outpouring of respect for Valenti was tremendous.

Said Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Barry Meyer, a friend who served as the family spokesman when Valenti had his stroke: "Today, my heart is truly heavy. I have lost a dear friend and mentor — someone who not only made a mark in history but also had a profound impact on my life."

Meyer de-scribed Va-lenti as "a true leader and gentleman whose wit, fire and passion for our business inspired everyone regardless of politics or opinion, background or belief."

Valenti was a special assistant and confidant to President Lyndon Johnson and living in the White House when he was lured to Hollywood in 1966 by movie moguls Lew Wasserman and Arthur Krim.

His lasting legacy includes the 1968 creation of the MPAA ratings system, which initially used four ratings: G for general audiences, M for mature audiences, R for restricted and X for adult-only. The M rating later became today's PG. The PG-13 rating was added in the 1980s, the X rating, which had become synonymous with pornography, was changed to NC-17 in the 1990s.
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