Motion Picture Association of America
Jack Valenti is widely known as a long time past president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), a position he held from 1966 to 2004. While working with the MPAA, he is most famous for creating the film ratings system and commonly credited as one of the most powerful pro-copyright lobbyists in the world. Prior to his leadership career, Mr. Valenti was the special assistant and advisor for President Lyndon B. Johnson.
As a leader in the movie industry, Valenti has received a number of awards. He won a Berlinale Camera at the 1987 Berlin International Film Festival and a 1999 Visionary Award from the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Additionally, he took home a 2001 Directors Guild of America for Honorary Life Member and a Leadership Award from the Hollywood Film Festival in 2002. In 2003, he was handed a Milestone Award form the PGA Golden Laurel. Valenti has also been given a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Valenti has been married to Mary Margaret Valenti since 1962. He is the father of actor John Valenti, director-writer Alexandra Valenti, and movie producer Courtenay Valenti. In 2006, he appeared in a documentary film about The Madeira School, which was once attended by his daughter Courtenay.
Childhood and Family:
Jack Joseph Valenti was born on September 5, 1921, in Houston, Texas. He graduated high school at age 15, making him the youngest graduate in the city, and served in the Army Air Corps during World War 2. An accomplished young pilot, Jack, known by family and close friends as Boom-Boom, gained the position of lieutenant, flew 51 combat missions as the pilot-commander of a B-25 attack bomber, and earned four decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the European Theater Ribbon with four battle stars. He received a B.A from the University of Houston in 1946 and two years later, an M.B.A from Harvard University.
In 1962, Jack married Mary Margaret Valenti. They have two daughters, Courtenay and Alexandra, and a son named John.
After serving as an Air Force pilot, Jack Valenti, who once worked as an office boy in the Humble Oil Company (now Exxon), co-founded Weekley & Valenti Inc. in 1952, a Houston-based advertising and political consulting agency in which he was executive vice president. Three years later, he met Lyndon B. Johnson, the then Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, and his political career began when he was recruited as the Senator’s assistant. During the 1963 visit of President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Johnson to Dallas, Texas, Valenti’s agency was responsible for handling the press. Within hours of the assassination of President Kennedy, he was on his way to the White House, where he served as the new President Johnson’s special assistant and advisor.
Jack left his White House commission on June 1, 1966, when he was appointed the president and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). In 1968, Mr. Valenti created history in the cinematic industry for pioneering the MPAA movie ratings system. The system originally consisted of four distinct ratings: G, M, R and X. The M rating was soon replaced by GP, which was later changed to PG. The X ratings proved to be bothersome because it was freely used by the pornography industry. The NC-17 rating was later added in 1990. Before that, in 1984, the PG-13 was added to give a larger range of distinction for audiences.
Valenti shared a degree of notoriety during the late 1970s and early 1980s for his vivid attack on the Sony Betamax VCR, which the MPAA was concerned about thinking it would spoil the film industry. As he stated in a congressional panel in 1982, “I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.”
In 1998, Valenti lobbied for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. He argued that copyright encroachment through the Internet would brutally harm the record and movie business.
After 38 years, in 2004, Valenti retired from the MPAA and was replaced by Dan Glickman. By then, his salary was reported to be $1.35 million, which established him the seventh highest paid Washington trade group chief. After he left, he joined the Advisory Board of Legend Ventures, where he counsels on media investment prospects.
So far, Valenti has published four books, a political novel titled “Protect and Defend,” and three nonfiction books, “The Bitter Taste of Glory,” “A Very Human President” and “Speak Up With Confidence.” He has also written a number of pieces for such publications as The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, Reader’s Digest, and Atlantic Monthly, to name a few.
PGA Golden Laurel: Milestone Award, 2003
Hollywood Film Festival: Leadership Award, 2002
Directors Guild of America: Honorary Life Member Award, 2001
Palm Springs International Film Festival: Visionary Award, 1999
Berlin International Film Festival: Berlinale Camera, 1987