Robert Radnitz, who produced such classics as “Sounder” and “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” died June 6 in Malibu of complications from a stroke 14 years earlier. He was 85.
“Sounder,” about a Southern black sharecropping family during the Depression, drew Academy nominations in 1972 for best picture, adapted screenplay and for lead thesps Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield. In its review, Variety called “Sounder” an “outstanding film” that “transcends space, race, age and time.”
Congress honored Radnitz that year and the film was lauded by the California Assembly.
An asthmatic as a child, Radnitz was a voracious reader and spent Saturdays watching double features with his dad, all of which he drew on during his career as a filmmaker.
After graduating from the U. of Virginia, Radnitz stayed on to teach English before apprenticing with Harold Clurman.
He then became a stage manager for the West Hampton Playhouse before turning into a Broadway producer. His “The Young and the Beautiful” production in 1955 was a hit on the Rialto and went on to play London’s West End.
Heading West himself, Radnitz worked briefly at United Artists and then served a stint at Fox, which led to his first movie, 1959’s “A Dog of Flanders,” based on the beloved children’s book.
In 1964, Radnitz produced another kidlit adaptation, “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” and over the course of the next couple of decades he produced pics including “Misty,” based on Marguerite Henry’s “Misty of Chincoteague”; “My Side of the Mountain”; “Where the Lilies Bloom”; as well as telepics “Mary White” and “Never Forget.”
Frequently seen around Malibu in his tennis whites, Radnitz enjoyed playing the game and held his own against the Pepperdine U. team, according to his family.
He also swam in the Pacific Ocean every morning until his stroke in 1996. The PGA bestowed an honorary lifetime membership kudo on Radnitz that year.
Survivors include his wife of 23 years, Pearl.