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The Who’s ‘Tommy’ Movie Director Ken Russell Dies

Ken Russell
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

British film director Ken Russel, best known in the music world for his work on the Who‘s 1975 rock opera ‘Tommy,’ passed away is his sleep Sunday in Lymington, England, following a series of strokes. He was 84.

‘Tommy’ — the story of a “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who becomes a pinball champion and subsequently a religious cult figure — was a star-studded affair which featured Who singer Roger Daltrey, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner and actor Jack Nicholson. ‘Tommy’ was a box office success and earned the Who’s Pete Townshend an Oscar nomination for his adaptation of the score.

The director’s follow-up, ‘Lisztomania,’ also starred Daltrey and featured a cameo by Beatles drummer drummer Ringo Starr as the pope.

Russell, who took part in a panel discussion marking the 35th anniversary of ‘Tommy’ in last year in Beverly Hills, Calif., recently met up with Daltrey to pitch the idea of including the singer in his latest production, a movie version of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’

“Only a few weeks ago we were happily discussing the prospect of me playing the Mad Hatter in Hawaii next spring,” Daltry told Britain’s Daily Express. “His contribution to the visual art of cinema and TV was enormous. Love him or hate him, you could never accuse him of being boring. One of Britain’s greats, he should have been honored by his country. Sadly now it’s too late.”

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