DGA Awards To Koch, O’Brien Twins

Veteran producer, director and former studio chief Howard W. Koch, who early in his career worked as an assistant director for several years, will receive the Directors Guild of America’s Frank Capra Award.

Veteran stage managers Chester L. (Chet) O’Brien and Mortimer J. (Snooks) O’Brien have been chosen as the first recipients of the DGA’s Franklin J. Schaffner Lifetime Achievement Award. The new award honors longevity and service by an associate director or stage manager.

The Capra award is given to an assistant director or unit production manager for service to the industry and to the Guild. First bestowed in 1980, it was given last year to Stanley Ackerman.

Koch is a longtime Hollywood producer, releasing his feature pics through Paramount, a company he once headed as production chief.

His films include the runaway hit “Airplane!” which grossed $158 million worldwide according to VARIETY figures; “Airplane II: The Sequel”; “Some Kind Of Hero”; “Dragonslayer”; “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever”; and the film adaptations of four Neil Simon plays: “Last Of The Red Hot Lovers,” “Star Spangled Girl,” “Plaza Suite” and “The Odd Couple.”

He began his career in the contracts department at Universal in Gotham and, after working in the 20th Century Fox film library, became a second assistant director for “The Keys Of The Kingdom” in 1944.

As a first assistant director, he worked with directors Joseph Mankiewicz, Mervyn LeRoy, William Wellman, Tay Garnett and Clarence Brown. He subsequently directed films for Warner Bros., United Artists, Allied Artists and MGM.

With his longtime associate, Aubrey Schenck, Koch made his tv debut by producing the “Miami Undercover” series for ZIV-UA. Other tv work included directing episodes of such series as “Hawaiian Eye,” “Cheyenne,” “Maverick,” “Lawman” and The Untouchables.”

He was production head at Paramount from 1964 to 1966, when he formed his own company to produce for Par. He has produced the Academy Awards program eight times.

Last year, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

The O’Briens are twins who began their careers in vaudeville 64 years ago, proceeding to work on Broadway and in tv.

Koch will receive his award at the DGA’s 43rd annual awards dinner March 16 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The O’Briens will receive their awards at the simultaneous DGA awards dinner in New York.

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