09/18/2012 11:32 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Norman Lear Presents Theatre West Award to Beau Bridges!

Beau Bridges Receives His Award from Norman Lear

Beau Bridges was a young actor who had only appeared in a few television shows and a small movie when, in 1968, I cast him in a top supporting role in my production of a big-studio (CBS) feature film, For Love of Ivy, co-written by and co-starring Sidney Poitier, with Carroll O'Conner (All in the Family), the first major studio film to star two black leads, Sidney and Abbey Lincoln, with music by Quincy Jones. There was something magical about young Beau, who played a rich son whose family owned a department store. He has to blackmail the suave Poitier, who owns the store's trucking company and secretly runs a nighttime gambling truck, to date their lovely family maid, Abbey. Beau (nicknamed by his parents for Ashley Wilkes' son in Gone With the Wind) was absolutely wonderful in an endearing way... and I think this role gave his career a powerful impetus. So when I was invited to attend a gala celebration for the 50th anniversary of the stalwart Theater Westgroup, and saw that my friend and personal hero (and fellow Huffington Post blogger) Norman Lear would present Beau with the Inaugural Betty Garrett Lifetime Achievement Award, I put on my bib-and-tuck and attended the dinner. (Incidentally, it was at a spectacular new Hollywood venue, the Taglyan Cultural Complex on Vine).

The Bridges family, with Beau and Jeff and wives.

Betty Garrett was a wonderful actress who was one of the founders of Theatre West when the group was organized in '62 by a group of New York actors living and working here who were frustrated at being away from live theater and not being able to practice their stagecraft. Betty was married to the brilliant actor Larry Parks (he played Al Jolson in the biofilm), and the couple were the victims of a horrendous blacklisting scandal which decimated their careers. (Liberal activist Lear was instrumental in ending the evil practice when he hired her for All In The Family.) I have been following the activities of Theatre West for years, and its energetic Executive Director, John Gallogly, was the one who told me of Beau's enormous contributions to the success of the theatrical group over the years. "He and his daughter, a talented young actress named Emily, have been members of the company for quite awhile, and they actively participate in its training and presentation activities."

I was visiting the theater at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West in Hollywood, and marveled at the fact that they could perform so many important functions in a ramshackle building with parking across the avenue. Knowing of my passion for bringing youngsters into the world of live theater and opera, John told me about their Storybook Theatre, which also received the Inaugural Excellence in Family Entertainment Award, which was presented on Thursday night to Barbara Mallory and Lloyd Schwartz, founders and artistic directors of the group, which for 25 years has been bringing live theatre to thousands of young people from all over Los Angeles. In a time when all artistic programs have been cut to the bone, this is an essenntial element to enhance the lives of our kids. At the end of the evening, I sent a (small) check to them to further their activities, and suggest you do the same.

Theatre West Exec Director John Gallogly with Beau.

Beau and daughter Emily on the stage there.

Poster of Beau's first major movie; that is him at lower right!

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