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As The Bruce Davis Academy History Arrives, Bill Kramer Is Writing A Next Chapter

Bruce Davis, say the notices, is finally ready to publish his monumental history of Hollywood’s film Academy. Twelve years in the making; part memoir, part chronicle; the book—The Academy and the Award: The Coming of Age of Oscar and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—is due this fall from Brandeis University Press. A former executive director of the Academy, Davis has been wading through hitherto private files since his retirement in 2011. Order now. Galleys are available to the media on request.

But if only he had waited a little longer. There seems to be another chapter brewing, and it should be a good one.

Though I’ve never known Davis especially well—in my experience, he isn’t the type to waste time on idle gossip with reporters—our occasional dealings were always a delight. He is smart, thoughtful, direct and generally inclined to answer questions thoroughly when he answers at all. Once, my Los Angeles Times colleague Jim Bates and I dropped in to ask Davis what the Academy planned to do with a $100 million-plus nest egg we had spotted on its balance sheet. Well, said Bruce (in company with then-president Frank Pierson), the group was planning to spend the cash on a giant movie museum that would tax its resources for years but eventually become a credit to Los Angeles and the world of film.

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Motion Picture Academy Votes In Museum Head Bill Kramer As New CEO

We got a scoop, L.A. got a museum, and Davis, as usual, was worth the visit.

Which is why it would be great fun to read his informed account of a transition that is only beginning to take place around the next occupant of his former position, Bill Kramer.

On July 18, Kramer—currently head of the Academy Museum–will officially become the Academy’s Chief Executive Officer (as the top dog is now known), following Dawn Hudson, who followed Davis.

An active type, a good listener, and reputedly a charmer, Kramer has already stirred things up by entertaining opinions from high and low, inside and out, about the Academy and its travails. He hasn’t declared a program. After all, he hasn’t even stepped into the job—nor is it clear with whom he will be dealing as board president when a reshuffled group of governors (election results due imminently) meet to replace the termed out current president David Rubin.

But the rumblings can be heard from way out here. Appointed less than a week ago—and a month from taking office—Kramer has been mixing with the staff, taking their temperature, and forming opinions about changes that will have to come quickly, if at all, given the approach of the next (and first Post-Slap) Oscar season. Not unnaturally, there have been whisperings of a shake-up. No one has left or been reassigned yet. But while interviewing for his own job Kramer made clear that he must be free to choose or retain a team of his own.

Where this goes, it is much too early to say. But it should make great reading in some future edition of the long-awaited Academy history that Bruce Davis will publish, at last, this fall.

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