S. Frederick Gronich, a longtime executive with the Motion Picture Assn. who represented the interests of American film studios abroad, died Sunday June 22 in Jerusalem of natural causes. He was 87.
The Czech native emigrated to New York in 1929 and served as a commissioned officer with Gen. Eisenhower in WWII, during which he was seriously wounded in Algeria. After recovering, he parachuted into Italy and later returned to work with Ike and other lead figures on the Normandy invasion.
After the war, he helped investigate suspected Nazi war criminals and worked with the newly founded Israeli military, working alongside David Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan and others in that country’s battles for independence. U.S. Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient on June 9 of this year was awarded the Ott Komemiyout by Israel’s defense ministry.
In 1950, Gronich began his film career as a production executive at RKO. In 1951, he joined the Motion Picture Export Assn. of America, the precursor of the Motion Picture Assn. He was stationed in various European cities over the next several decades, representing the American film industry on projects throughout Europe, North Africa and Israel. He worked on issues such as taxes, censorship, co-production agreements, publicity and securing the release of studio assets frozen by governments.
Gronich was a frequent presence at European film festivals such as Cannes and often helped to deal with political and cultural clashes at those events. Among his many dealings, he developed friendships with Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut, Akira Kurosawa and many others. He was also involved in negotiations surrounding Charlie Chaplin’s film library licensing and Chaplin’s return to the U.S.
After moving to London in 1980, he negotiated on behalf of American studios in deals regarding Europe’s new cable and home entertainment industries. He also served as a U.S. delegate to United Nations, UNESCO, World Intellectual Property Organization conferences and more.
“(Frederick) was my trusted friend and my irreplaceable colleague and a man of immense intellect and wise judgment,” remembered MPAA prexy and MPA CEO Jack Valenti. “He served the MPAA with great fidelity for over a third of a century.”
Gronich retired in 1990 and moved to Israel, where he had helped found in 1973 the Israeli Cinematheque.
He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Raquel; a daughter, Daphne, an intellectual property and entertainment lawyer in L.A; a son-in-law, WMA agent Paul Nagel; a grandson; and others.