I'm sure that somewhere Carole Lombard, who played a nurse in "Vigil In The Night" and spent her share of time in hospitals recuperating from a variety of maladies despite her generally active, athletic lifestyle, is pleased to hear the following bit of news: The Motion Picture & Television Fund nursing home in Woodland Hills, which had been threatened with closure since January 2009, announced this week it will be taking in new residents for the first time in several years.
The fund, initially known as the Motion Picture Relief Fund, was created in 1921 by an array of people in the relatively young film industry, including the same foursome who founded United Artists (Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Mary Pickford).
As motion pictures grew, health care became a focus. Actor Jean Hersholt, president of the fund in the late 1930s, helped create a CBS radio program, "The Screen Guild Show," that raised $5.3 million for the fund over its 13 years of existence; Lombard appeared on the show several times, and like other participants donated her share of the proceeds to the fund.
In 1940, Hersholt found property in Woodland Hills for the future Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, and it was dedicated in September 1942. According to the fund, it now "operates six outpatient health centers throughout the greater Los Angeles area; a children's center; a retirement community, health plans and much, much more." In other words, it goes beyond being merely a retirement home, but has all sorts of services for people in the entertainment industry in southern California.
Over the years, the facility has housed an array of people who have contributed much to the entertainment community, including the likes of Norma Shearer, Hattie McDaniel, the Three Stooges' Larry Fine and director Stanley Kramer. But rising health care costs led to a potential shutdown, with many of its tenants leaving for other facilities (its population had declined from 130 residents to 29); others were threatened with eviction amidst legal action.
However, in February 2011, Providence Health & Services entered into an agreement with the fund to keep it open, and the more stable economic conditions have led to this latest news. Capacity will increase to 40, with most of the newcomers former residents who moved to other facilities.
As in previous years, the MPTF will hold a fundraiser the night before the Academy Awards, and at this year's event, the mood will likely be guarded optimism.
For more on the fund, visit http://www.mptvfund.org.