Pic critic retracting defamatory statement

Film critic Leonard Maltin will be forced to apologize during a press conference Saturday morning to placate former child star Billy Gray (“Father Knows Best”) as part of the settlement of a lawsuit filed by Gray last year that stemmed from a longtime listing in Maltin’s annual “Movie & Video Guide.”

Each edition of the guide from 1974 through 1997 includes Gray “among the real-life addicts and pushers” depicted in the 1971 feature “Dusty & Sweets McGee.” The film is a dramatically enhanced docu about actual Los Angeles heroin addicts and pushers.

A screen disclaimer at the film’s beginning explains that actors were used in several drug dealer roles. While Gray appeared in the movie, it was as an actor. Now 60, Gray was unaware of the film guide’s description until a friend pointed it out in January 1997. He filed suit charging defamation in California Superior Court that month.

He maintains that he experimented with drugs but was never a heroin addict or a pusher. He further alleged that the allegation has prevented him from getting acting work.

An undisclosed financial settlement was reached last April between Maltin and Gray, and the 1998 edition of the guide deleted the sentence.

As part of the settlement agreement, Maltin is required to make a public apology to Gray, which he is skedded to do alongside Gray on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. inside the Cordoba Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

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