When I refer to the Motion Picture and Television fund as “storied,” I mean it. The people who reside there not only have stories of their own to tell, but they’ve acted, danced, and sang many other stories in the movies and productions they’ve worked in. The MPTF is a retirement community for some of the entertainment industry’s earliest stars, many of whom got their starts in vaudeville, Broadway, or black and white films.
The MPTF, about thirty minutes outside of Los Angeles, came to be by the generosity of others. In 1921, a group of actors, filmmakers, and entertainers got together and decided to establish a retirement community for aging stars or down-and-out performers.
“This was the vision of Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith,” says Bob Beitcher, the Fund’s president. “They work in a feature film, feature films end and then they’re out of work. So it really is an industry where you never know what lies in your future.” Stability is something the film industry strongly lacks—so the MPTF gives a little bit of that to the people who need it the most.
Currently, the community is home to over 200 residents, all of whom were in some way connected to the entertainment industry. The area features gardens, fountains, cottages, and apartments for the residents who remain independent. There are also assisted living facilities with nurses skilled in geriatrics and dementia care.
One resident, Connie Sawyer, 103, has lived in the complex since 2004. She once worked in a Broadway show titled A Hole in the Head, a show that caught the attention of Frank Sinatra’s manager. “’You gotta buy that property. It’ll make a wonderful movie.’ He said, ‘Buy it! Bring the author,’” says Sawyer.
People currently in the industry do their parts to contribute, too. Sawyer takes her morning swims in a pool donated by actress Jodie Foster, and Fund chairman and DreamWorks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg has raised at least $500 million for the Fund in the last two decades. That money goes to support industry people who need it, some of whom are residents who can’t afford the $3,000-$8,000 monthly fee.
The Fund has an operating budget of $50 million to fund the retirement community and two other facilities that offer different services for all ages of people in the area.