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    McKenna's Free Association

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    To mark last year’s 50th anniversary of the beloved film version of Joy Adamson’s cherished memoir Born Free (1966), actress/activist Virginia McKenna, who turns 86 today, went back to the regions of Kenya where she and her late husband Bill Travers, playing naturalists Joy and George Adamson, filmed their signature screen achievement about the quest to reintroduce a domesticated orphaned lioness named Elsa into the African wild. The Channel 4 documentary Virginia McKenna’s Born Free aired in Britain last October and depicted how a film assignment for the Travers became a life-altering experience, one that’s marked her mission since as a vocal advocate for animals in their natural environment and as the managing founder of the Born Free Foundation since the 1980s. Beautifully filmed on location and immeasurably enhanced by a score and title song by John Barry (with lyrics by Don Black) that won Academy Awards®, Born Free in its day, The Guardian’s Sam Wollaston wrote in his 2016 piece on the documentary, “said something about attachment and detachment, not just about the Adamsons and lions, but about Britain and Kenya, colonisation and independence. And it had a message about conservation before conservation became fashionable.” McKenna told Hello! Magazine: “We had no animal trainers or stunt doubles. The general consensus from the film industry was that if it stuck to the book the film was unmakeable. There was a real fear from the producers that something could go wrong so there was discreet security on hand at all times… as I replicated how Joy walked, played and even slept alongside lions. It changed our lives forever.” Last month she told Tony Earnshaw of The Yorkshire Post about Born Free’s lasting influence on her life. “It’s as clear and sharp as yesterday. I don’t know if you can imagine it: up at six and on the planes for two hours with the animals getting rid of their energy before we got to where the crew were waiting in their cages to film that morning’s work. Lunchtime picnics on the plain, feeding animals six days a week for almost a year. That’s a large chunk of your life.” In the full article [read here:], she confides that husband Travers was an immediate, fervent convert and she came aboard soon thereafter, and the cause of animal rehabilitation between captivity and the wild has remarkably become the largest chunk of her life, well beyond Travers' death in 1994. Directed by Academy Award®-winning documentarian James Hill (who would continue his association with Travers and much-decorated birthday honoree McKenna on The Lions Are Free and An Elephant Called Slowly), Born Free continues to captivate, educate and exhilarate on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray.