FROM 2007
talks about her early days at Disney

by Scott Wolf

Arlene Ludwig

One of the biggest surprises I've had in doing interviews is learning about the wonderful Arlene Ludwig.

Before meeting Arlene, I knew little about her other than she was in Publicity for Disney and her father is a Disney Legend. In doing my research and even contacting people at Disney, I found less about Arlene than any other person I've interviewed. 

Feeling unprepared, I interviewed Arlene, only to learn what a truly fascinating person she is, not to mention warm and kind. I've seen Arlene at events since the interview and continue to learn more about her such as she was a bridesmaid at Annette Funicello's wedding!

I'm tremendously delighted to introduce you to Arlene Ludwig!

Scott Wolf: What were the first films you worked on when you got your job as an assistant in Publicity?

Arlene Ludwig: The first thing when I was still doing the assistant work was “Miracle of the White Stallions.” That was about the Lipizzaner horses.

SW: Who was in that?

AL: Robert Taylor was in that (she sighs). Bob Dorfman who was my boss was going to meet Robert Taylor and he took me along. I was just this fledgling and I remember walking into his hotel room and it must have been winter because I was wearing a coat, and he helped me off with my coat. He was such a gentlemen, I almost passed out. You know what a gentlemen would do on a date, help you off with your coat, open the door for you... but this was Robert Taylor, and he was so, so beautiful to look at.

The other was when Julie Andrews did “Mary Poppins” and Tom Jones was at the studio, he was probably one of the most beloved publicists imaginable. He was so easy to get along with. He brought Julie in to New York and I met them at the airport and I just remember how so unimposing she was. She was charming and lovely and went down to baggage and stood there at the carousel as the luggage came through. She didn’t send her luggage ahead of her. I thought what a real, real person she was, so I’ve known Julie since “Poppins” so when she came back and did “Princess Diaries” one and two I worked with her again. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and I send clippings (such as articles from newspapers), she has an office and I would always send stuff and I always thought it’s a nice thing to do so I get thanked over and over again and it’s lovely. I adore Julie.

At my dad’s funeral service (Disney Legend Irving Ludwig), Julie was in London and she sent a letter of condolence which was such a nice thing to do and the rabbi read her note. That’s the kind of person she is.

SW: So you worked on “Mary Poppins?”

AL: Yes, I started in September of ’62. Everybody was interested in “Mary Poppins.” There was a difference from when you have to go out and push a film because it may not be as well known, or maybe the people in it aren’t as interesting to the press, but for Julie this was such an easy road. You just sort of mention the name and everybody was interested and I thought to myself, “Where do you go from here?” when you start on such a great film, but you know what, when it’s over it’s over and you just move on. I don’t even know what the next film after “Poppins” was, but that was the next one. You just work on it and you spend as much time and energy and love for the next project.

SW: In what ways were you involved in “Mary Poppins” for example?

AL: It would have been whatever publicity she did in New York, I’d help organize whatever appearances she made and probably went with Tom and then she went on. I don’t know if she went on tour or what happened after that. I only know the New York part.

SW: So for any film, is that what your job was to get the film publicity, the star’s publicity, etc.?

AL: Exactly, you’re really promoting your movie and however you can do that. When you have people like Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke it’s not all that difficult.

Here’s the thing, publicity is what you can get for free and advertising you pay for so you can buy whatever spots or whatever newspaper ad or something, so we’re sort of the companion to that. We try to get them the placement on television or in the newspapers…

SW: Is that what you still do today?

AL: A lot of it is, but I’m also working on awards stuff now. Now awards campaigns are almost as prevalent as your regular movie campaigns, you have the guilds to deal with, you have the screenings, you have Q&A’s. I also work with the Hollywood Foreign Press which I have been doing for years, so they have the Golden Globes.

SW: So you deal with the Academy Awards, Golden Globes…?

AL: Yes.

SW: Do you try to help your films to win the awards?

AL: It’s a hard thing to describe. What you kind of want to do is expose your movie to as many people as possible for any one of those categories, if you have a movie that has some wonderful technical things like last year, “Pirates of the Caribbean” won some technical awards and the first “Pirates” Johnny Depp got nominated because it was such an amazing event that movie turned out to be and what he did for the role of Jack Sparrow.

So it’s about making people aware subtly without ramming things down people’s throat, because you want to make them aware of it and hope that it just resonates with them when they’re voting.

SW: And that’s for the Academy?

AL: That’s for the Oscars, but you have all the other guilds, you have the Director’s Guild, the Writer’s Guild, you have the editors, you have sound, you have art direction. They all think of themselves as equally important because it is to their craft.

Arlene LudwigSW: And you’re with the Publicist’s Guild?

AL: Yeah, I sit on an awards committee with the Publicist’s Guild because they do a luncheon every year. It used to be the Friday before the Academy Awards hoping that a lot of the talent would be around and maybe available to be at the guild, and now they’ve moved it away because they just want to do their own thing. But, we do a luncheon where you honor a domestic press person, an international press person, they honor some publicists, the Les Maison award is kind of the publicist’s award.

SW: I know you won that.

AL: I did. It was the year of “Beauty and the Beast” also which was really, really exciting because that was the first animated feature that got nominated in the Best Film category. It was ’92 because I remember that my mother and father were at the luncheon. My mother passed away the following year so it was a very special year for me.

More from Arlene:
Her Publicity education and her Disney Legend father
Well-known people she's known and worked with

See other interviews

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