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            Ken Hughes


            Ken Hughes was an award-winning writer and director who flourished in the 1950s and '60s, though he continued directing into the early '80s. Born in Liverpool, England on January 19, 1922, Hughes decided early in his life that he wanted to be a filmmaker. When he was 14 years old, he won an amateur movie-making contest.

            In 1952, his first feature, the crime drama Wide Boy (1952), was released. By 1955, he was working with imported American character actor Paul Douglas in the quirky Joe MacBeth (1955), a retelling of Shakespeare's tragedy recast as a modern film noir. He both directed the movie and wrote the screenplay of "Joe Macbeth". That film led to his directing more English pictures with imported Hollywood B-list stars, including Arlene Dahl and Victor Mature. In a reverse of the Atlantic trade, he exported a script for the "Alcoa Theatre" episode "Eddie" (1958), starring Mickey Rooney and directed by Jack Smight, that brought him an Emmy Award for his teleplay.

            His favorite of his many movies was The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) (1960), starring Peter Finch as the doomed writer. He was nominated for three BAFTA Awards and Finch took home the BAFTA as Best Actor. It also won the Samuel Goldwyn Award for Best English-language foreign film at the Golden Globes.

            During the 1960s, he worked on A-List pictures, including the 1964 adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage (1964). The movie did not make anyone forget the Bette Davis-Leslie Howard classic of 30 years earlier. He also toiled as one of the five directors on the cinematic mishmash Casino Royale (1967), which was a box office smash but a critical bomb.

            His greatest hit was the adaptation of another Ian Fleming work, his children's book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) (1968). The movie was a huge hit, but Hughes was dissatisfied with it. His next picture, the historical epic Cromwell (1970) (1970) got good reviews, but did not burn up the turnstiles at theaters.

            His career slowed down in the '70s. The low point of his career undoubtedly was directing 83-year-old 'Mae West', vamping eternally as the 30-something sexpot she imagined herself in her mind, in the Golden Turkey Sextette (1978) (1978), a critical and box office dud. He ended his career directing the exploitation film Night School (1981), a slasher pic starring a then-unknown Rachel Ward, which was released in 1981.

            After a period of declining health, Ken Hughes died on April 28, 2001 in Los Angeles. He was 79 years old.