Tom Luddy, who co-founded and served as artistic director for the Telluride Film Festival and produced films including “The Secret Garden” and “Barfly,” died Feb. 13 in Berkeley, Calif., after battling a long illness. He was 79.
Luddy co-founded Telluride in 1974 along with Bill Pence, Stella Pence and James Card. Luddy served as co-director, then as artistic director and adviser through 2022. Beginning in a small opera house, the festival evolved into one of the largest and most respected globally over the past five decades.
“The world has lost a rare ingredient that we’ll all be searching for, for some time,” said Telluride Film Festival executive director Julie Huntsinger in a statement. “I would sometimes find myself feeling sad for those who didn’t get to know Tom Luddy properly. He had a sphinx-like quality that took a little time to get around, for some. But once you knew him, you were welcomed into a kingdom of art, history, intelligence, humor, and joie de vivre that you knew you couldn’t be without. He made life richer. Magical. He called Telluride a labor of love for a very long time. We’re so much better off because of him and that labor. We at the Festival owe it to him to carry on his legacy; his commitment to and love for cinema, above all.”
Since 1979, Luddy was associated with American Zoetrope, serving as executive producer, producer and director of special projects. Luddy produced films including “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters,” (1985) “Wind” (1992), and “Cachao: Uno Mas” (2008). He also acted in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978).
In addition to his lifelong work with Telluride and film producing, Luddy was dedicated to film restoration, distribution and exhibition. He served as the American jury member at the 46th Cannes Film Festival as well as on juries including the 11th Moscow Film Festival and the 38th Berlin Film Festival.
Luddy was born June 4, 1943, in New York City. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a film degree in 1965, gaining early exposure through student film societies and working at the Berkeley Cinema Guild. After graduating, he worked at Brandon Film in New York, then at Telegraph Repertory Cinema in Berkeley, Surf Interplayers Cinema in San Francisco and Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.
Luddy is survived by his wife Monique Montgomery; his siblings Brian Luddy, James Luddy and Jeanne Van Duzer and his nephews and nieces Stevens Van Duzer, Will Van Duzer, Dierdre Pino, Megan Archer and Caroline Van Duzer. A funeral service will be held at a later date. Donations can be made to Telluride Film Festival’s General Support Fund or the National Film Preserve’s Nugget Project.