Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Al Ruddy, who produced the blockbuster movie “The Godfather,” was more than happy to help a Las Vegas charity sell a leather-bound, studio copy of the screenplay, which he had signed and which had somehow landed in one of the charity’s donation bins.
And until Wednesday, he had no idea what would come of it.
Ruddy learned that the screenplay was in circulation when he saw an official with Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada appear on the popular cable TV show “Pawn Stars,” asking how much she could get for it. She was offered $500, and she declined.
Part of the discussion on the TV show was, who wrote an inscription in the front of the 158-page screenplay and signed it “Al”? Was that Al Pacino, as a signature authenticator for the show claimed?
“That’s my signature,” Ruddy exclaimed to no one in particular when he saw the show on TV.
After the charity decided to sell the screenplay at auction, Ruddy, a big supporter of the work done by the organization, contributed some extra Hollywood memorabilia, photographs from “The Godfather” movie set, even videotaped congratulatory remarks for the eventual owner, thinking the goodies would boost the value of the screenplay on behalf of the charity.
He was certainly pleased that the screenplay fetched $12,000 at auction last week.
But it turns out the buyer has no need for any of the movie memorabilia, photos or the congratulations that Ruddy videotaped for the buyer.
The screenplay was bought by his wife, Wanda McDaniel. And on Wednesday at their home in Beverly Hills, she carefully set it down on the table next to Ruddy’s morning omelet.
“I was flabbergasted,” Ruddy said.
What motivated his wife to buy it for him? “I have no idea,” he said. “You want me to be the first guy to explain how a woman’s mind works?”
Said McDaniel: “I have a very creative and talented husband who has managed to win two Oscars (best-picture awards for “The Godfather” in 1972 and “Million Dollar Baby” in 2004), and I like to have things in twos to make our two children happy. So I wanted a second studio copy of the ‘Godfather’ screenplay.”
McDaniel, who works with the entertainment industry as executive vice president of Giorgio Armani, said she learned of the wayward screenplay after she received a Google news alert about her husband that linked to a Las Vegas Sun article explaining that it was him, and not “Godfather” actor Al Pacino, who had autographed the screenplay.
She was distracted last week, dealing with celebrities attending the upcoming Grammy Awards, but had circled the auction date. With co-workers surrounding her and watching, she bid for the screenplay on her iPad from her office.
There were a couple of counter-bids but after she punched in 12,000 as the clock clicked down, the screenplay was hers.
How high was she willing to bid? She paused. “I don’t know. It’s priceless.”
One of the reasons, at least for her: the inscription that her husband wrote to Robert Evans, who headed production at Paramount Studios at the time. Ruddy wrote on a blank page at the front of the screenplay, “Bob — It cost me a lot ... but there’s one thing that I got ... ulcers — Thanks — Al.”
“Ulcers, that’s a word you don’t hear too often any more,” McDaniel chuckled.
She said of her winning bid: “It was for a wonderful charity, and this is a wonderful legacy for our family.”