Larry Gelbart, whose writing for the war sitcom “M-A-S-H” defined television in the 1970s, collected his second Humanitas Prize for screenwriting on Tuesday: this time for his lifelong career.
The prize honors films and television shows that “entertain, engage and enrich the viewing public.” Twelve writers accepted awards and a share of $145,000 in prize money at a luncheon at the Hilton Universal Hotel.
Gelbart, 79, was given the honorary Kieser Award — named after Humanitas Prize founder and priest Ellwood “Bud” Kieser — for his “stellar career,” said Frank Desiderio, president of the Humanitas Prize.
Gelbart won the Humanitas Prize in 1976 for an episode of “M-A-S-H,” a show filmed during the Vietnam War era about the staff of an Army hospital in the Korean War of the early 1950s. His screenplays, including 1982’s “Tootsie” with Dustin Hoffman, have snagged numerous awards.
“‘M-A-S-H’ had very complex stories and characters for a sitcom, and it told the truth about people in war. We thought he was a good example for writers today,” Desiderio told The Associated Press.
The Humanitas Prize recognizes screenwriters who promote “positive human values” as well as exceptional writing, Desiderio said.
Since 1974, the organization has awarded more than $2.8 million in prize money to TV and film writers whose work “is extraordinary, both in terms of aesthetics and ethics,” Desiderio said.
More than 80 screenwriters, directors and producers serve on the judging committee.
Richard LaGravenese won for his urban classroom film drama “Freedom Writers,” about a teacher who inspires kids to write, and Hanif Kureishi won for the film “Venus,” in which an aging actor fosters a relationship with a younger woman. They each won $25,000.
“These stories project a compassionate and hope-filled vision of the human situation,” Desiderio said.
—Peter Morgan won $25,000 for the HBO film “Longford,” based on the life of British Lord Frank Pakenham and his friendship with murderer Myra Hindley.
—Salvatore Stabile collected $10,000 in the Sundance feature film category for “Where God Left His Shoes,” about a couple and their children struggling to move out of a homeless shelter.
—R. Scott Gemmill and David Zabel received $15,000 for NBC’s “There Are No Angels Here,” about a trip to a refugee camp in war-torn Darfur.
—Jennifer Crittenden collected $10,000 for an episode of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Emmy-winning CBS sitcom “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” delving into children’s questions regarding faith and religion.
—Sindy McKay, Dennis Haley and Marcy Brown won $25,000 for an episode of PBS’ animated kid’s show “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks.”
—Anna Sandor collected $25,000 for Disney Channel’s “Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front,” set during World War II.
—Jonny Mais, an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts, won $10,000 and the 2007 David and Lynn Angell Fellowship in Comedy Writing.