Tom Luddy Wiki, Biography
Tom Luddy, co-founder of the Telluride Film Festival and producer of numerous films for Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios, died February 13 at a nursing home in Berkeley, CA, where he had been under care for dementia. He was 79.
The festival announced Luddy’s death this morning. The news comes two months after the death of another Telluride co-founder, Bill Pence.
“The world has lost a rare ingredient that we’ll all be searching for, for some time,” said Julie Huntsinger, executive director of the Telluride Film Festival. “I would sometimes find myself feeling sad for those who didn’t get to know Tom Luddy properly. He had a Sphinxlike quality that took a little time to get around, for some. But once you knew him, you were welcomed into a kingdom of art, history, intelligence, humor and joie de vivre that you knew you couldn’t be without. He made life richer. Magical.”
Luddy played a key role in the adventurous programming at Telluride and remained the fest’s co-director until the end of 2022. He helped launch the festival in 1974 with Pence and his wife Stella Pence, along with film historian James Card, who became the event’s co-director alongside Luddy. The inaugural festival at the Colorado burg’s Sheridan Opera House — and a local bar — featured tributes to Coppola, Gloria Swanson and Leni Riefenstahl and was a surprise sellout.
He was highly influential in film circles for advancing the careers of numerous American and international directors. Luddy also was involved in the restoration of important films, most conspicuously Abel Gance’s silent epic Napoleon.
Luddy had been associated with American Zoetrope, the production company founded by Coppola and George Lucas, since the late 1970s as a film executive or producer.
His dozen-plus producer credits include Paul Schrader’s Mishima (1985), Norman Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance (1987), Barfly (1987), Jean-Luc Godard’s King Lear (1987), Powaqqatsi (1988), Manifesto (1988), Wait Until Spring (1990), Wind (1992), Agnieszka Holland’s The Secret Garden (1993) and My Family (1995). His final producing credit came on Cachao: Uno Mas, the 2008 documentary about Afro-Cuban music legend Israel López Valdés aka Cachao.
Born on June 4, 1943, in New York City, Luddy, came west to study at UC Berkeley in the 1960s and became the program director of several student film societies. In 1964, he worked as the assistant to Ed Landberg at the Berkeley Cinema Guild, Repertory Cinema.
Upon graduating, Luddy was hired at Brandon Films in New York as its director of national distribution from 1966-67, where he worked on the U.S. releases of Pier Paolo Pasolini’ of’s Accatone and Alain Resnais’ The War Is Over (La Guerre Est Fini). He then moved to the Telegraph Repertory Cinema in Berkeley as its program director from 1967-69 while also assisting artistic director Albert Johnson at the San Francisco International Film Festival from 1967-73.
Luddy served as a member of the New York Film Festival’s selection committee for three years and was on the board of the San Francisco Film Festival for many years. He was appointed as an American Jury Member at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, under the chairmanship of Louis Malle, and served on the jury for the Moscow and Berlin film festivals in 1979 and 1987, respectively.
He also played Ted Hendley in the 1978 creepshow Invasion of the Body Snatchers, his lone acting credit.
Apart from his film work, Luddy also played a key role in helping his then-girlfriend, Alice Waters, launch the celebrated Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA.
Luddy is survived by his wife, Monique Montgomery; siblings Brian Luddy, James Luddy and Jeanne Van Duzer; nephews Stevens and Will Van Duzer; and nieces Dierdre Pino, Megan Archer and Caroline Van Duzer.
Details of a funeral service are pending. His family asks that donations in Luddy’s memory be made to Telluride Film Festival’s General Support Fund or the National Film Preservation Foundation’s Nugget Project.
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