Film historian Ken Wlaschin dies at 75

Programmer ran London Film Fest, AFI

Ken Wlaschin, 75, film programmer, historian and author who ran the London Film Festival and later the AFI Film Festival, died Nov. 10 at his home in Palm Springs after a short illness.

A native of Nebraska and a graduate of Dartmouth, Wlaschin pursued further studies at University College in Dublin, where he met Maureen Kennedy Martin, whom he married in 1961 after serving in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps. During the ‘60s he worked as arts editor and critic for the Rome Daily American, a columnist for the London Daily Sketch and drama series editor for London Weekend Television. He also appeared in two films, “The Tramplers,” with Joseph Cotten, and “Mo.”

He became program director of the National Film Theater and the London Film Festival in 1969 and ran the latter with great success until 1984, the longest tenure of anyone in that job to this day.

He returned to the United States to take over as interim director of Filmex in the wake of the demise of that festival’s initial incarnation. Once it was reborn as the AFI Fest (aka Los Angeles International Film Festival), Wlaschin brought his internationalist perspective to that event until 1993, during which time he also worked as director of the National Film Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. For the subsequent decade, he remained at the AFI as director of creative affairs and vice chairman of the National Center for Film and Video Preservation.

Wlaschin also wrote or edited some 20 books, mostly on film or music subjects, but also fiction, poetry and travel. Among his tomes were “Bluff Your Way in the Cinema,” “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World’s Great Movie Stars and Their Films,” “Encyclopedia of Opera on Screen,” “Gian Carlo Menotti on Screen” and “Silent Mystery and Detective Movies.”

He was decorated by several countries, notably France, Italy and Great Britain, for his services to cinema.

He is survived by his wife, son, two sisters, brother and half-brother.

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