David V. Picker, 87, who was the first to guide an X-rated film to the top of the Oscar heap, introduced the Beatles to Hollywood with "Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" and convinced a reluctant Ian Fleming that James Bond might fare pretty well as a cinematic character, died Saturday in New York City, his hometown. He had been fighting colon cancer.
A third-generation movie man, Picker was a studio chief at United Artists, Columbia and Paramount in a prestigious run of box-office successes including "Last Tango in Paris" and "Ordinary People." He estimated that he read about a dozen scripts a week.
He took a chance on 1969's "Midnight Cowboy," a curious and oddly disturbing story about a friendship between a New York City street hustler and a kid from small-town Texas under the impression he could make a living as a gigolo.
To increase the risk factor, Picker turned to a director just coming off a flop and a public acknowledgment that he was gay, handed the story to a screenwriter who had been blacklisted after being identified as a Communist and hired a producer who was in a marital crisis. Oh, and the film was rated X.
Yet somehow it all worked. The film won three Oscars, including best picture.
Not everything turned to gold for Picker, however. He passed on "Nashville," generally considered to be director Robert Altman's masterpiece, and was at Columbia when the studio released "Ishtar," the madcap Morocco comedy starring Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty that is widely believed to be the worst film ever made.
David Victor Picker was born on May 14, 1931, in New York, and it seemed inevitable that he would end up in the movie business.
His grandfather, a Russian immigrant, operated a nickelodeon in the Bronx, and from there built a small chain of theaters in the city. His father, Eugene, ran the chain, and his uncle Arnold was the vice president of United Artists.His sister Jean was the longtime director for the American Film Institute.
His apprenticeship started early, sitting in the theater as a child watching "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." "I ran screaming from the projection room," he wrote in his memoir. "It was terrifying."
After graduating from Dartmouth College and completing a stint in the U.S. Army, Pickler got his first job — $110 a week selling ads for United Artists. He moved up quickly, shifting from Columbia to United Artists to Paramount and was credited with expanding the careers of legends — Ingmar Bergman, Bob Fosse, Billy Wilder, Paddy Chayefsky. He helped launch Woody Allen and Steve Martin, as well.
When the Beatles said they couldn't complete their three-movie deal because of their increasingly chaotic work schedule, Pickler solved the problem by producing an animated film, "Yellow Submarine." And after others had failed to persuade Fleming to partner up for a movie, Pickler got the deal done. Twenty-six films and more than half a century later, the "Bond" franchise endures.
Dr. Richard Green, 82, one of the earliest and most vocal critics of psychiatry's classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder, died on April 6 at his home in London. The cause was esophageal cancer.
Green, who was also a forceful advocate for gay and transgender rights in a series of landmark discrimination trials, became aware of the marginalization of people with alternate sexual and gender identities while training to be a doctor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a leading center in the study of sexuality.
In 1972, shortly after completing his specialty in psychiatry, he defied the advice of colleagues and wrote a paper in the International Journal of Psychiatry questioning "the premise that homosexuality is a disease or a homosexual is inferior."
At the time, three years after the protests against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York, the site of a major turning point in the gay rights movement, psychiatry's diagnostic manual classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and publicly arguing otherwise came with professional risks.
"Those were times when, if you spoke up in support of homosexuals, people immediately thought that you were secretly homosexual yourself, or had unresolved sexual issues," Columbia Prof. Jack Drescher said in an interview. "Richard was very much heterosexual, and it took a lot of courage to argue for gay people."
That paper and others initiated a prolonged dispute in the profession, much of it bitter and sarcastic. Green asked if heterosexuality should also be labeled a mental disorder.
"Styles of heterosexual conduct do indeed form much of what is dealt with by psychiatrists," he wrote. He added that "instability in maintaining a love relationship and neurotic uses of sexuality — in which sexuality is used to control others — as a substitute for other feelings of self-worth, or as a defense against anxiety and depression," account for a large number of cases.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association sided with Green and other influential figures, including Dr. Judd Marmor and Dr. Robert Spitzer, and decided to drop homosexuality from its diagnostic manual.
He continued his advocacy, appearing as an expert witness on behalf of gay or transgender people in more than a dozen trials.
Richard Philip Green was born on June 6, 1936, in Brooklyn, N.Y.