LACMA film historian Ron Haver dead at 54

Ronald D. Haver, film historian, author and film preservationist, died Tuesday in Los Angeles from complications of AIDS. He was 54.

The Oakland native, infatuated by film early on, founded a film society for the Boys’ Club at his high school with his best friend, Gary Essert, who later co-founded Filmex and the American Cinematheque. Haver projected films for the members, which led to his first job as a doorman at the Grand Lake Theater.

After graduating from high school, Haver moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as an usher at the Carthay Theater.

He then joined the army, and completed his military service in New York City, where he was transferred during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Haver continued to live in New York City, attending film classes under the G.I. Bill at the New School and Columbia U. and then working as a publicist and actor.

Haver returned to Los Angeles in 1970, where his old friend Essert helped him land a job as a projectionist at the American Film Institute’s Beverly Hills campus. Haver’s knowledge and talent as a film historian was obvious to those near him and soon he became the oral historian to Marian C. Cooper, producer of “King Kong.”

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In 1972 Haver left AFI and teamed with film historian David Shepard to establish a permanent film program for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Soon LACMA named Haver director of film programs, a post he held for 20 years. While there he organized innovative film series with guest appearances by world-famous performers and directors, and instituted the popular Wednesday and Friday matinees for senior citizens.

In 1980 Knopf published Haver’s “David O. Selznick’s Hollywood.” Three years later, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and Warner Bros., Haver managed the restoration of “A Star Is Born” (1954), directed by George Cukor and starring Judy Garland and James Mason. He recovered 20 of the 30 minutes missing from Cukor’s original cut. The restored film opened on June 30, 1983, to critical acclaim and sold-out houses at Radio City Music Hall, then played to audiences around the world.

He is survived by his mother, a sister, a nephew and a niece.

The family requests donations to the Film Dept., Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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