AMAZING GRACE Producer and Friend of Movieguide® Ken Wales Dies
By Movieguide® Staff
Ken Wales, a beloved producer, partner Movieguide® and close friend of Dr. Ted Baehr died around 10 p.m. on Aug. 21, 2021. He was 82 years old.
Ken’s wonderful wife, Susan, whom he met when speaking for Movieguide® in Atlanta, when she got the opportunity to pick him up at the airport, wrote on her Facebook site:
“Ken Wales died in his sleep at 10:00 pm last night. We are deeply saddened over the loss over my husband, Meg’s stepfather, Hailey, Kynall, and Mia’s step-grandfather. After a decade of suffering with Alzheimer’s and a neurological disease, CIDP, we are rejoicing that Ken is healed and whole in heaven with his Lord and Savior. We are thankful for the great films and TV projects ken produced in his life…. His contributions truly inspired millions of people, and with his devotion and encouragement to young people in film, he made an impact in the film industry that will far exceed his lifetime,” Susan said.
Dr. Ted Baehr notes:
Ken was everyone in the Baehr family’s best friend. He helped to set MOVIEGUIDE® on the path it is today when he introduced me in 1981 to George Heimrich, who had been the Director of the Protestant Film Commission from the 1940’s to the 1960s, and who had given me the PFO files and instruction on how the PFO redeemed the mass media of entertainment. Ken helped at every step on my path and the path of MOVIEGUIDE®. He spoke at our events from early in the MOVIEGUIDE® history, and he made critical connections in the Entertainment Industry. I would stay with him at his home while working with the Entertainment Industry before we moved from Atlanta to the Hollywood area in 1996. Thus, Ken and I worked together for years, and we honored him often at the MOVIEGUIDE® Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala & Report to the Entertainment Industry. We even wrote a book together with Susan entitled AMAZING GRACE OF FREEDOM, and Susan helped to produce the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards for years. Ken is loved still since he lives in the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ, enjoying the Banquet and making movies for the heavenly host, or least telling them great stories. He was a master storyteller. There will never be another Ken Wales.
Wales produced over a dozen movies, including the Movieguide® Award-winning AMAZING GRACE, as well as the popular television series CHRISTY. Wales is survived by his wife, Susan.
In 2016, Movieguide® honored Wales with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Communicating and Living God’s Grace
“Although I grew up in the entertainment industry, when I came to faith and was elected as president of the organization that produced THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE for CBS in 1979 which won the Emmy Award, Ken Wales became one of my best friends and my connection to many of our best friends in Hollywood,” Baehr said of Wales.
Wales was born on August 13, 1938 in Salem, Indiana.
During his time in the industry, Wales advocated for strong moral, redemptive content.
“We’re here to honor films that make a difference,” Wales said at a previous Movieguide® Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry. “Not only the people who make them but also those who see them.”
Wales added, “Many people, whether they are Christians or not, want to make movies that are redemptive and uplifting. Increasingly, they are finding that MOVIEGUIDE® is the awards show that honors these efforts.”
Writer Ward Tanneberg says Wales began his career as an extra in the James Dean movie REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.
His high school was the movie set. James Dean even used Wale’s locker in the story, and that was it. From that point on he wanted to work in the movies. Growing up in Southern California he was afforded the unusual opportunity of working and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner for an entire week with Walt Disney, who at the end of the five days, had been so impressed with the young man that he gave him enough money to cover five years of cinema school at USC.
Wales subsequently enjoyed success as an actor in several films before taking up the life of a producer. And no matter what film he’s been working on, Wales has desired to tell stories that have “the potential to inspire, transform, or redeem the lives of the audience.”
Wales then signed a contract for MGM but turned down roles that violated his faith in Christ.
“I had been speaking to a lot of church groups and conventions around the country on the subject of making right choices. So, when I read … the script … I had to meet with the director, Vincente Minnelli, to tell him I couldn’t do it. He told me, ‘You’ll do it, or you’ll be out of your contract, you’ll go on suspension, you’ll have no salary for a year, and I’ll see that you never work in this town again.’ I told him he’d have to find someone else, and he literally threw me out of his office.
“I was put on suspension,” Wales said. “When the film came out the following year, I was speaking at a youth convention in Denver, to about 600 kids. We took a break at dinner time, and everybody piled out to see a movie and to get pizza. As we started to walk across the street, there was a huge marquee with a sign for the movie I’d turned down. And I thought that was interesting. What if I’d done that film and the kids had gone in and seen it?”
CBN News reports:
Growing up in Southern California, Wales’s dream was made possible through the generosity of one of the biggest names in the make-believe industry. For an entire week, he met, worked, and ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Walt Disney. At the end of the 5 days, Disney showed his confidence in Wales’s potential as a filmmaker by pulling out his personal checkbook and giving him enough money to cover five years of cinema school at USC.
After film school, Wales took an assistant director position with famed director Blake Edwards (The Great Race, The Pink Panther Series). His most recent hit was his television series, Christy, which has acquired fans on a worldwide level. Amazing Grace, his latest film, isn’t his last. Wales plans to soon produce the sequel to Chariots of Fire, about Eric Little’s journey in China, and a movie based on C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.
In addition to his film work, Wales also co-authored a book with Baehr called The Amazing Grace of Freedom.