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May 9: Fay Kanin and the Motion Picture Academy

lawrencebush
May 9, 2014
fay-kaninFour-time president of the Motion Picture Academy (and the only woman out of 35 presidents besides Bette Davis, who served for less than one month, and the current president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs), Fay Kanin was born in New York on this date in 1917. Working both with her husband, Michael Kanin, and independently, she had a six-decade career as a screenwriter, actor, and film producer who won both Emmy and Peabody Awards. The couple's best-known work was the frothy but feminist Doris Day comedy, Teacher's Pet (1957), and adapting Kurosowa's Rashomon for the Broadway stage. They were also blacklisted for two years by the House UnAmerican Activites Committee because of their friendships with members of the leftwing Group Theater, their activism in support of anti-Nazi activity in Hollywood during World War II, and their general support, in their scripts and in person, for civil liberties. Later in her career, Kanin also co-produced several television movies that told about women's lives and issues. She "combined,"writes Harriet Reisen at the Jewish Women's Archive, "a journalist’s curiosity, a dramatist’s appreciation for points of view, and a rabbi’s gift for teaching through the word to interpret her times for a mass audience." Kanin died in 2013 at the age of 95. "I am interested in growth. To me, that’s the most interesting thing, that people change, grow." -Fay Kanin