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The quiet passing of Robert Radnitz last week, a onetime English teacher turned movie producer should not go unnoticed. Radnitz is responsible for two fine films that prominently featured dogs—A Dog of Flanders  and Sounder . With the release of his first film, A Dog of Flanders in 1959, Mr. Radnitz established his reputation as a maker of high-quality movies for children and their parents. Based on the venerable novel by Ouida, the bittersweet story of a poor Flemish boy and an abandoned dog is a classic tale of adversity, a theme that would appear often in the producer’s films. Radnitz’s greatest success was his production of Sounder in 1972, directed by Martin Ritt, and nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Screenplay, Best Actor (Paul Winfield) and Actress (Cicely Tyson). By today’s standards, Sounder may appear a tad sentimental in portraying the harshness of the subject matter—the cruel racism of 1930s American South—but the film introduced mature subject matter, intelligently and compassionately, to a young audience. I remember seeing it as a young boy in my local movie theater and being moved and angered by the injustice the film depicted. Radnitz went on to produce many films, including Island of the Blue Dolphins, My Side of the Mountain, Where Lilies Bloom, among others. As part of a joint resolution by the U.S. Congress honoring his work, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas paid him this tribute, “The films Robert Radnitz has produced touch the common thread of humanity and that’s why he’s made such a great and glorious contribution to the thing that makes our society a viable, living, vibrant whole.”
Robert Radnitz passed away at the age of 85, Sunday night, June 6, at his Malibu home, surrounded by his devoted wife Pearl and his beloved dogs, Coco, Junior and Rosebud.