Former MGM Publicity Exec Bill Edwards Dies at 84

Courtesy Nicolas Edwards
Bill Edwards (left) with Gene Kelly.

Based in London, he worked with Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Sophia Loren and on such films as "The Dirty Dozen."

Bill Edwards, an MGM international publicity executive who worked alongside such glamorous stars as Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Sophia Loren, has died. He was 84.

Edwards died Wednesday at his home in Cape Town, South Africa, his son Nicolas said, adding that his father had not been well for two or three months.

An Englishman, Edwards joined MGM in 1961 as a unit publicist before becoming the studio's European publicity director. Among the films on which he worked were The V.I.P.s (1963), which starred Taylor and Richard Burton in the first movie released after their red-hot pairing in Cleopatra; The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964) with Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison and Shirley MacLaine; the Lee Marvin war classic The Dirty Dozen (1967); and three films starring Loren: Operation Crossbow and Lady L, both released in 1965, and The Countess From Hong Kong (1967).

Edwards had a "very warm working relationship" with Loren, his son said. And in the recently published biography Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, co-author Peter Evans described Edwards as someone who spent half a lifetime dealing with actresses. “He knew them inside out, their vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies; he especially loved Avaʼs down-to-earth take on life.”

Edwards' career took him from London to Rome and Paris before being called to the MGM studio in Culver City, where he spent three years before returning to London in 1973 as MGMʼs international publicity director.

After leaving the studio in the mid-1980s, he devoted his time to writing and occasional film marketing and publicity assignments.

Edwards was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1977 and served as the co-chairman of its London Screening Committee from its inception in 1989 until 1997.

Born in Sutton-in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, England, on April 4, 1929, Edwards began his film industry career in London in 1952 at the motion picture trade paper Kine Weekly. That followed three years of service in the Royal Navy and two years as a reporter for The Sheffield Star.

In addition to his son Nicolas, Edwards is survived by his wife, Ghislaine, another son Sean, five granddaughters and a grandson. A church service was scheduled for next week in Cape Town, with another service set for several weeks later in Portsmouth, England.