Peter Gettinger, who helped finance some of the most successful movies of the 20th Century, including “Around the World in 80 Days’’ and the 1962 version of “The Manchurian Candidate,’’ died Oct. 23 at his home in Brickell Key of lung cancer.
He was 84.
Gettinger was a law student in 1948 when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling that prevented Hollywood studios from owning the theaters that showed their films. As a consequence, the motion picture studios began struggling to find financing to make the films.
Gettinger made it his goal to find alternative financing — and he succeeded.
Among the films he found financing for: the 1950s films “Moulin Rouge,” “The Man with the Golden Arm,’’ “Friendly Persuasion,’’ “The Pawnbroker,’’ and “Dressed to Kill.’’
In his 30-year career as an entertainment attorney, film producer and entrepreneur, he also produced his own films.
“He loved the essence of bringing people together through his work,” said his son, Geoffrey Gettinger. “For him it was all about using his connections to bring people together and deploying peoples’ talents to come out with a finish product.”
He was born in Brooklyn on March 21, 1928 and followed in his father’s footsteps to become a lawyer. He started college at the age of 16, worked as a swimming instructor for naval units attending his college, enlisted in the Navy reserves where he became a lieutenant junior grade and graduated in 1950 from Cornell Law School.
After graduation, he joined his father in the family law firm, Gettinger and Gettinger. There, he spent about 20 years arranging agreements to finance motion pictures as the banks’ counsel. During this time, more than $1 billion in loans were made to independent film producers without a loss to the bank.
He then changed his focus to become an independent producer, where he partnered with other producers to bring including “Never Love a Stranger,” “The Battle of Neretva,” “Night Hair Child,” “The President’s Plane is Missing,” “Assassination at Sarajevo,” and “Force 10 From Navarone.”
Gettinger also distributed “I Love You Rosa,” a 1972 Israeli film that earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
“His biggest accomplishment was being at the forefront helping to create independent motion picture financing,’’ his son said.
Gettinger is also widely recognized for producing “Mao’s China” in 1971. It was the first western film produced inside China since that nation’s civil war and pre-dated President Richard Nixon’s visit to China. The Chinese government invited him to follow it up with a film on the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. That led to “Two Fires Inside China,” which aired on Fox television in 1990.
In the 1950s he and the Gettinger family bought the 1407 Broadway building in Manhattan, where the TV show “Project Runway’’ is now filmed.
He co-founded Hotel Film International Corp., provided American films for guests staying in luxury European hotels to watch.
He also co-founded Classic Films, Inc., which acquired a license to exhibit Charlie Chaplin’s feature films in the United States. In 1972, Classic Films arranged for Chaplin’s return to the United States after a 20-year exile, culminating in his being honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Lincoln Center Film Society and an honorary Oscar at the 44th Academy Awards ceremony.
With the fall of the Soviet bloc, co-founded Czechoslovakian Capital Corporation, which arranged loans to Czech entrepreneurs.
He was also engaged by the Institute of Thermophysics in Siberia to promote its scientific research capabilities to U.S. companies.“He loved traveling through work and he had friends all over,” said Geoffrey Gettinger.
Gettinger retired and moved from New York to Miami in 2009. He enjoyed the latest restaurants and the ambience of places like Mary Brickell Village, his son said.
In addition to his son Geoffrey, Gettinger is survived his wife of 38 years, Whitney Gettinger and four other children, Ellen Grubbs, John Gettinger, Pamela Tucker and James Gettinger.
There will be an invitation only memorial service in December in New York.
Donations in his honor may be made to America’s National Parks Foundation.