First Worked for Selznick, Then Disney : Film Director Robert Stevenson, 81, Dies

Robert Stevenson, a film writer and director known in the early part of his career for such movie milestones as “King Solomon’s Mines” in 1937 and “Jane Eyre” in 1943 but more recently for the 19 pictures that he did for Walt Disney, died Wednesday.

He was 81 and died in his Santa Barbara home after a long illness.

Stevenson, born in Buxton, England, and educated at Cambridge, was considering a career in science when he saw his first film at the age of 22. He studied film making in Germany and wrote or directed several pictures in his native land before David O. Selznick brought him to the United States in the 1930s.


Here Selznick loaned him out to various studios where he made “Back Street,” “Jane Eyre,” “To the Ends of the Earth,” “Dishonored Lady” and many more.

During World War II he produced documentaries for Frank Capra’s film unit and covered the liberation of Rome.

After the war, Stevenson left Selznick and went to work at RKO for Howard Hughes before joining Disney where his maiden effort was “Old Yeller” in 1957. Before retiring in 1978 Stevenson made some of the most successful pictures to come out of the Disney studio, including “Mary Poppins,” “Kidnapped,” “The Absent-Minded Professor,” “That Darn Cat,” “Love Bug” and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.”

His final Disney picture was “The Shaggy D.A.” in 1976.

At one time 19 of his films had been put on videotape, producing some $250 million in rentals around the world, and he was considered among the most commercially successful directors of his day.

He also directed and wrote scripts for such television series as “Gunsmoke,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “General Electric Theater.”

Stevenson once was married to British actress Anna Lee, but they divorced in 1944. His survivors include his present wife, Ursula, a son and a daughter. Funeral services will be private.