Saturday, October 7, 2017

Vintage 1950s Scandals

          David Begelman, was a Hollywood producer who was involved in studio embezzlement scandals starting in the 1950s.
          He worked at the Music Corporation of America (MCA) in the 1950s, eventually becoming vice president. He left to co-found the talent agency Creative Management Associates (CMA) with Freddie Fields.  Their clients included Judy GarlandBarbra StreisandLiza MinnelliWoody AllenGregory PeckPaul NewmanSteve McQueenJackie Gleason and Fred Astaire. At CMA, Fields and Begelman pioneered the movie "package" where the talent agency put their stars, directors and writers together on a single project.
          Begelman left CMA to oversee the Columbia Pictures producing such hits as ShampooFunny Lady and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Begelman was among the first Hollywood agents to cross over and rise to the top of the studio system.

          Scandals started when actor Cliff Robertson received a 1099 indicating he had received $10,000 from Columbia Pictures. He had never received the money and discovered that his signature on the cashed check had been forged, starting a criminal investigation. The LAPD and the FBI verified that the $10,000 check was a forgery, and it was tracked to Begelman. Possible embezzlement with Judy Garland was suspected.

          Columbia Pictures discovered that Begelman had embezzled an additional $65,000 through other forged checks. The scandal led to a rift between Columbia executives. He was reinstated for a brief time but was fired quietly.
          Despite the pressure to remain quiet, Robertson and his wife Dina Merrill spoke to the press. David McClintick broke the story in The Wall Street Journal in 1978, later turning it into the best-selling 1982 book Indecent Exposure. Robertson later claimed he had been blacklisted during the 1980s for coming forward about the Begelman affair and had few roles during this period.
 Begelman claimed his alma mater was Yale University. Yale responded that Begelman had never attended that university.
          In 1980, Begelman returned to become CEO and president of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. With the exception of Poltergeist, he was unable to repeat his success at Columbia. His apparent slump led to his departure from MGM before his four-year contract expired. After leaving MGM, Begelman was offered a position to run a production company, Sherwood Productions, backed by Bruce McNall. Under Sherwood, Begelman backed War Games , Mr. MomThe Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and Blame It on Rio where he continued in fraud.
          When investor Nelson Bunker Hunt pulled out of Sherwood in 1984, Begelman took the slack and founded Gladden Entertainment with the remaining assets and repartnering. There, with McNall, he produced MannequinWeekend at Bernie'sThe Fabulous Baker BoysShort Time and Mannequin 2: On the Move.
          Hollywood's three major talent guilds filed a petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles to liquidate the Gladden for failure to pay actors, directors and writers residuals amounting to $4.1 million. Begelman left Gladden Entertainment to found Gladden Productions. However, he was not able to get funding for the new production company.
          Begelman became depressed over the bankruptcy and lack of funding for Gladden Productions. Begelman shot himself in a room at the Los Angeles Century Plaza Hotel on August 7, 1995 at the age of 73.

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