Matt Weinstock, Dec. 22, 1959
December 22, 2009 | 4:00 pm
World Refugee Year
As she sorted out her memories on her return from a pleasure trip around the world many months ago, actress Marsha Hunt found herself deeply troubled by recollection of endless hordes of refugees in Hong Kong, Calcutta, the Gaza Strip -- almost everywhere against the Western Hemisphere.
She'd seen diseased, maimed, ragged and hungry people sleep in alleys and doorways, being punished for crimes they didn't commit.
Last summer, when she accompanied her husband, writer Robert Presnell, to Europe, where he did a movie script, she first heard about World Refugee Year. It began last July. Now it is half over and most Americans don't know about it. It hasn't received the press International Geophysical Year did. The fact remains that 15 million people in the world are homeless and destitute, living in limbo.
WRY WAS set up by the UN to call attention to the refugees' desperate plight but the money allotted is only a fraction of what is needed. WRY was proposed by England and co-sponsored by the United States but of the 63 nations which signed many are not participating actively. The ball is being carried mostly by church groups- the American Friends Service, Maryknoll, particularly the World Council of Churches and, of course, CARE.
"The closer a person gets to the problem," Marsha Hunt said, "the more he is likely to despair. It's a global headache and isn't likely to be solved in our lifetimes. The best we can do with present funds is to keep these people alive. It takes 8 cents a day to do this but 17 cents a day would take them off the world dole and make many of them self supporting."
OBSESSED WITH the critical need, she has been temporarily declining film roles to put together an hour TV program designed to call attention to World Refugee Year. It will include scenes from camps, and film notables, including Bing Crosby, Irene Dunne and Louis Jourdan, will appear. The program will be shown on Channel 13 on Jan. 20 at 8 p.m. and later, by tape, all over the nation.
"People were moved by the Hungarian Crisis a few years ago and opened their purses and the doors to their homes," she said. "We hope we can make them aware of a greater problem, if less dramatic."
She doesn't say so but beautiful Marsha doubtless hopes her efforts -- she is working without funds, without even an office -- may be her Christmas contribution to humanity.
LAST THURSDAY, after the Christmas party at Art Center School on W 3rd St., the 5-foot tree, magnificently decorated by the talented and imaginative students, was picked up by arrangement and taken to Unitarian church, 2936 W 8th St. After serving for two Christmas parties there it will be taken to the Indian Center, 2920 Beverly Blvd., for two more parties, one for 600 Indian children. Total, five parties, making it easily the tree with the most mileage in town.
A REPORTER on the paper La Sicilia in the town of Siracusa, Sicily, recently interviewed Van Heflin, there with a film unit making "Under 10 Flags." Van, a football fan, mentioned that the team from Syracuse, N.Y., was No. 1 in the United States. When the story was printed the town suddenly found a great bond with its namesake city and, Van writes, has gone football crazy. It has arranged for wire coverage of Syracuse's Cotton Bowl game with Texas and, although he has never seen a football game, the mayor is sending a wire to his team, wishing it well on New Year's Day. Siracusa, that is.
ENCLOSED IN lithograph tycoon Henry Davis' Christmas card, a nativity scene, is this printed message: "Several years ago I loaned someone a copy of 'Honey in the Horn,' by H. L. Davis. Please go to your book shelf and find my book. Don't be ashamed to let me know you are the guilty one. I don't care about that. I just want my book back" . . . Publicist George West's cards bear the post office cancellation, "George West, Tex." Yes, there is such a town.
A HURRYING motorist on Ventura Blvd. kept sounding his horn at a slower moving car and when he finally passed it he yelled, "You ought to be driving a hearse!" To which the law abider retorted, "You ought to be riding in one!" . . . Howard Williams reports this sign in a Studio City store window: "Payola checks cashed here."