Kenneth Rive (1918 -- 2002)
Kenneth Rive was the longest-serving member of Film Distributors' Association. During his fifty-year career in distribution, he championed many international filmmakers and introduced Bergman, Kurosawa, Truffaut and others to UK audiences. His main legacy is a more diverse arthouse cinema, where the recent success of releases such as City of God, Amélie and Y Tu Mama Tambien is a testament to his nurturing of the subtitled sector.
Born in Canonbury, north London, in July 1918, Ken Rive spent his whole life in entertainment. As a young boy, he accompanied his photographer father to Germany and became a child actor in silent German films of the 1920s, including Rasputin starring Conrad Veidt. Returning to London, he took various jobs in showbusiness until seconded to British Intelligence at the outbreak of World War Two.
After the war, Rive began work at the then Berkeley cinema on Tottenham Court Road and soon took over as manager. Looking to exhibit the films he himself wanted to see, he travelled to Moscow and negotiated a license for a package of Russian films, previously unseen in the UK. So began his career as a distributor, which lasted until 30 December 2002, the day he passed away. The company Rive formed in 1953, Gala Film Distributors, continues today.
In the 1960s, he ran a small arthouse cinema circuit with Leslie Grade, and in the 1980s he managed the UK distribution operation of the Cannon Group. One of his greatest successes came in 1985 with Gala's UK release of Claude Berri's saga, Jean de Florette, which scooped four BAFTA awards, and its sequel, Manon des Sources.
As his success grew, his commitment to the industry deepened. Rive was a co-producer on a handful of British productions in the early 1960s, and he adopted two industry charities, the CTBF and Variety Club, for which he raised many hundreds of thousands of pounds. He was Chief Barker of Variety Club in 1965 and founded Variety at Work, the on-going strand which arranges excursions and experiences for children in care.
FDA helped to organise a tribute to the career of Ken Rive, which was held at the National Film Theatre on London's South Bank on 29 April 2003, attended by more than 100 film industry guests and members of his family. He is much missed by us all, although his legacy lives on.