HOLLYWOOD — Barney Oldfield, Variety’s first Nebraska correspondent, Hollywood press agent and retired Air Force colonel, died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from cirrhosis of the liver brought on by diabetes. He was 93.
Oldfield became a Variety stringer in 1936, after writing then-editor Abel Green about a correspondent position. Previously, he worked for the Lincoln Star, and later the Lincoln Journal, as a columnist, feature writer and movie reviewer.
During his decade-long tenure as a newspaperman, Oldfield interviewed such screen stars as Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Shirley Temple, Doris Day and Fred Astaire.
Journo’s showbiz coverage ran in a number of other industry trades including Billboard, Film Daily, Motion Picture Daily, Motion Picture Herald and Box Office. As a broadcaster, he brought Hollywood into Midwest homes with his nightly radio program “Hollywood Highlights” on KFOR.
500 films in a year
Cinephile was later christened the “marathon movie seer” in the pages of Robert Ripley’s “Believe It of Not” cartoons for having screened more than 500 films in a single year.
Born in 1909 and named for famed car-racing pioneer Barney Oldfield, the Tecumseh, Neb.-native developed a love for all things entertainment during a college-long stint as a theater usher. He graduated with a journalism degree from U. of Nebraska in 1932.
Alongside military brass, Oldfield fought in WWII — the first journo to become a paratrooper — and served as a press aide to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1945, he organized and established the Berlin Press Club in the home of former Hitler finance minister Walter Funk.
After the war, he landed in the Warner Bros. PR department, repping such players as Ronald Reagan, Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, Janis Paige and Elizabeth Taylor.
Oldfield joined L.A.-based aerospace and defense firm Litton Industries Inc. as director of international relations in 1962. After his retirement in 1990, he took up philanthropy and funded some 40 scholarship programs totaling $3 million.
On April 9, the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation, which Oldfield founded, held a tribute to him at its annual luncheon during NAB in Las Vegas. Among those paying homage to Oldfield was heavyweight boxing champion, George Foreman, who has called Oldfield “my best friend.” Oldfield helped launch Foreman’s career.
Oldfield will be buried in Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Nebraska on Friday.