Friday, August 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Bob Thomas, 92, longtime Hollywood reporter

AP reporter Bob Thomas measuring Betty Grable´s waistin 1945. (Associated Press)
AP reporter Bob Thomas measuring Betty Grable's waistin 1945. (Associated Press)
AP reporter Bob Thomas measuring Betty Grable´s waistin 1945. (Associated Press) Gallery: Bob Thomas, 92, longtime Hollywood reporter

He was the institutional memory for the movies at the Associated Press and a passage for the world to a Hollywood both longed for and long gone.

Bob Thomas, 92, who died Friday at his Encino, Calif., home, started reporting when Clark Gable was a middle-aged king, Bette Davis was in her big-eyed prime, and Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall were emerging stars.

"Independent" movies were a rarity during the studio-controlled era, and celebrity gossip was dispensed by rival columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons rather than Internet sites.

Younger reporters knew the names and the credits, but Mr. Thomas knew the people and lived the history. He could tell you what Jack Lemmon liked to drink at parties or recall Marilyn Monroe's farcical inability to show up on time.

Around the country, and beyond, at least one generation of movie fans learned the latest about Hollywood by reading Bob Thomas. He interviewed most of the great screen actors of the 20th century, among them Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Jack Nicholson, Julia Roberts, and Tom Cruise.

When a story ran, Mr. Thomas often heard directly from the stars. Soon after her marriage to actor John Agar in 1945, Shirley Temple wrote: "John and I want you to know that we are very grateful to you for the manner in which you handled the story on our wedding."

Mr. Thomas worked well into his 80s, covering a record 66 consecutive Academy Awards shows, beginning in 1944. During his nearly seven decades writing for the AP, Mr. Thomas reviewed hundreds of films and TV shows and wrote numerous retrospective pieces on Hollywood and how it had changed.

Mr. Thomas was also the author of nearly three dozen books.

He is listed twice in Guinness World Records: for most consecutive Academy Awards shows covered by an entertainment reporter and for longest career as an entertainment reporter (1944-2010). In 1988, he became the first reporter-author awarded a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

Through the years, Mr. Thomas' enthusiasm for his profession never waned.

"I get to interview some of the most beautiful people in the world," he said in 1999. "It's what I always wanted to do, and I just can't stop doing it."

Mr. Thomas is survived by his wife of 67 years, Patricia; daughters Nancy Thomas, Janet Thomas and Caroline Thomas; and three grandchildren.

 

Hillel Italie Associated Press
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