My initial shock about director/producer Arnold Laven's death last month has morphed into regret and appreciation. Regret for only knowing him for slightly under a year and appreciation for the brief time we spent together talking about his career and the movies.
After attending a celebration of his life at Arnold's residence today, I was awed with the outpouring of genuine love for a man who literally spent his life giving of himself to his friends and family. Yes, there were some of his old television and movie friends present; Dick Van Patten, Dennis Dugan and Johnny Crawford who spoke movingly of his close relationship with Arnold that began with multiple auditions for The Rifleman. However, many of Arnold's friends have nothing to do with show biz. There were his old tennis buddies (for many years, Arnold ran the Arnold Laven Memorial Tennis Tournament at his place every Memorial Day Weekend), there was the guy who had the locker next to him at the health club, his CPA, old friends from his days in the 1st Moton Picture Unit, neighbors in Encino along with the sons and daughters of old friends who had passed on and looked upon Arnold as a surrogate Uncle or Father.
Everyone spoke of Arnold's humility, his righteous love for his wife and family, an unabashed zeal for all things living (he would stop a tennis game to have everyone observe a squirrel) and generosity of spirit about everything. Although I only knew Arnold more than slightly, every moment rang true. Arnold was one of those rare people who could converse about any subject and was interested in everyone else. A microphone was passed around and everybody had an opportunity to remember what Arnold Laven meant to them. It was joyfully moving. We sat next to a young man that Arnold and his wife virtually adopted and raised as a grandson. In addition to Arnold's sister and his daughter and son, I chatted with an old Army buddy of Arnold's who grew up on the Universal backlot and was an extra in The Bride of Frankenstein. There were so many other nice people and they were all there for Arnold.