I have just heard the very sad news that Ken Annakin has passed away in Beverly Hills aged 94. As my regular readers will know, it was Ken who directed Walt Disney's be-loved Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men. (1952).
Ken had previously been in good health and always talked about making more films, even though he had not directed since the early 1990s, his daughter Deborah Peters said. "He was absolutely fine, other than old age," she said. "He was walking and mobile, chatting and working, still trying to get films made. I don't think anybody like that ever really stops." His health had been failing since he had a heart attack and stroke within a day of each other in February. He passed away on Wednesday night.
I intend to look into the life of this Disney Legend in the future, but for now here is today's obituary from the New York Times:
"Starting as a cameraman in Britain on training films for the Royal Air Force in World War II, Mr. Annakin went on to direct more than 40 feature films for the British screen and Hollywood.
His 1965 comedy about the early days of aviation, the full title of which is Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew From London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes, starred Stuart Whitman as an American flier racing for a prize awarded by a British newspaper. It intertwined romance, cheating and international conflicts with soaring flight scenes. It earned Mr. Annakin an Oscar nomination, with Jack Davis for best screenplay.
Comedies were Mr. Annakin’s specialty in his early directing days. One hit from those years was Miranda (1948), with Glynis Johns as a mermaid caught by a doctor on a fishing trip; her tail reappears whenever she gets wet. In 1948 and ’49 Mr. Annakin directed a series of films about a down-to-earth British family, the Huggetts.
One of the first live-action Disney movies was Mr. Annakin’s “Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men,” with Richard Todd as Robin Hood. Shot in England and released in the United States in 1952, it entered many more childhood memories when it was shown on television in 1955. Another Disney film directed by Mr. Annakin was the 1960 version of “Swiss Family Robinson,” with John Mills, Dorothy McGuire and James MacArthur.
Some of Mr. Annakin’s work was more serious. In 1957 he directed “Across the Bridge,” in which Rod Steiger played a Wall Street swindler hiding in Mexico using the identity of a man he had murdered. Mr. Annakin’s daughter said “Across the Bridge” was her father’s favorite film.
In 1962 Mr. Annakin was one of the four directors of “The Longest Day,” the sprawling World War II epic about the invasion of Normandy. He directed the scenes involving British and French troops.
In 1965 he was the sole director of “Battle of the Bulge,” with Henry Fonda.
Among Mr. Annakin’s other directing credits are “The Biggest Bundle of Them All” (1968), a comedy heist movie set in Italy; “The Call of the Wild” (1972), starring Charlton Heston; and “The Pirate Movie” (1982), an adaptation of “The Pirates of Penzance” starring Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins.
Kenneth Cooper Annakin was born in Beverley, in Yorkshire, England, on Aug. 10, 1914. His daughter said he was an only child who left his parents as a teenager and never told her his parents’ names. Besides his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 49 years, the former Pauline Carter; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
After dropping out of school, Mr. Annakin traveled to Australia, New Zealand and the United States. He returned to England and sold insurance and cars, then joined the RAF.
In 2002 Queen Elizabeth named Mr. Annakin an officer of the Order of the British Empire."
Disney's nephew Roy described Ken Annakin as, "an important part of the Disney legacy [who] made several memorable films for my uncle Walt."
“Star Wars” creator George Lucas paid him an indirect compliment when he named the character Anakin Skywalker for him.
In addition to his daughter Deborah, Annakin is survived by his wife of 50 years, Pauline; grandchildren Alice and Matthew; and great grandchildren, Oliver and Zoe. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Monday at Westwood Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.
In 4 days time Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood DVD will go on general release across America. This film will be one of a number of wonderful lasting legacies of a man who insisted, that he only made films for audiences.
Thank you Ken.