Thursday, June 10, 2010

R.I.P, Robert B. Radnitz and Andreas Voutsinas

Robert B. Radnitz dies at 85; Hollywood producer of distinguished family films

(L.A. Times) Robert B. Radnitz, an English teacher turned movie producer who made some of Hollywood's more distinguished family fare, including "Sounder" and "Island of the Blue Dolphins," has died. He was 85.

Radnitz died Sunday at his Malibu home from complications of a stroke he had years ago, said his wife, Pearl.

With the release of his first film in 1959 – the boy-and-his-dog tale "A Dog of Flanders" – Radnitz started to develop a reputation as a maker of high-quality movies for children and their parents.

He went on to produce nearly a dozen feature films, often mining children's literature to make such movies as "Misty" (1961), based on the Marguerite Henry classic "Misty of Chincoteague," and "Island of the Blue Dolphins" (1964), which shared its name with the Newbery Award-winning book by Scott O'Dell.

Other popular films produced by Radnitz include And Now Miguel (1966), Where the Lilies Bloom (1974), Birch Interval (1976) and Cross Creek (1983). But his best-known film remains the Oscar-nominated Sounder (1972), which I reviewed here on the blog back in February 2009…and which was recently on TCM, according to my high school galpal The Duchess. She refused to watch it because she thought it was going to be about the family’s dog—but I told her that it’s much more than that, and that she shouldn’t miss it the next time it makes the rounds on the cable channel.

Nominated for an Academy Award for best picture, "Sounder" was his most acclaimed film. Based on William Armstrong's best-selling book about a black sharecropping family in the Depression-era South, it starred Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield.

"Sounder" was "his ego trip," Radnitz recalled in a 1973 interview, "because everybody told me not to make it," and nobody thought it would find an audience.

"It was the first film that broke the mold of blaxploitation," he told The Times in 1996.

When Times critic Charles Champlin named "Sounder" one of the top films of 1972, he called it "beautifully acted, honest, angering and inspiring."

By 1973, The Times had proclaimed Radnitz "the only successful American maker of children's films outside the gates of Walt Disney films."

Greek director-actor Andreas Voutsinas dies at 79

(AP) Greek stage director and actor Andreas Voutsinas, who served as acting coach to several Hollywood stars including Jane Fonda, has died. He was 79.

Voutsinas died Tuesday in an Athens hospital, according to a Greek Culture Ministry statement.

Born in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1931, Voutsinas played parts in films such as Mel Brooks' "The Producers" (as Carmen Ghia) and "History of the World: Part 1" (as Bearnaise) as well as Luc Besson's "The Big Blue."

He directed Fonda in the brief 1962 Broadway show "The Fun Couple," later describing her as "the only great love of my life."

Voutsinas also coached Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty and Ann Bancroft.

R.I.P., Messrs. Radnitz and Voutsinas. You will be missed.

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