Saturday, April 28, 2018

Godspeed Michael Anderson

Michael Anderson, who directed such films as The Dam Busters (1955), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), and The Quiller Memorandum (1966), died April 25 2018 at the age of 98.

Michael Anderson was born on January 30 1920 in London. He came from a theatrical family. His great aunt was stage actress Mary Anderson (who was billed as Mary Navarro during her career in silent films). His parents were stage actors Lawrence and Beatrice Anderson. It was through acting that his career in film began. He appeared as an actor in the film Housemaster (1938). Afterwards he served as an assistant director on such films as Spy for a Day (1940), Freedom Radio (1941), Jeannie (1941), and Unpublished Story (1942). He appeared as an actor in the film In Which We Serve (1942).

During World War II Mr. Anderson served in the Royal Signal Corps. It was during this time that he met actor Peter Ustinov. The two co-wrote what would be the first film on which Michael Anderson had credit as director, Private Angelo (1949). Following the war Michael Anderson served as assistant director on such films as Fame is the Spur (1947), Vice Versa (1948), One Night with You (1948), and Woman Hater (1948). As mentioned above, his first film as director was Private Angelo (1948). He also directed the film Waterfront (1950).

In the Fifties Michael Anderson directed the films Hell is Sold Out (1951), Night Was Our Friend (1951), The House of the Arrow (1953), Will Any Gentleman...? (!953), The Dam Busters (1955), 1984 (1955), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst (1957), Chase a Crooked Shadow (1959), Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959), and All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960). The Dam Busters, based on the true story of the RAF's 617 Squadron's attacks on the Möhne, Eder, and Sorpe dams during World War II, was both critically acclaimed and the biggest British film at the box office in the United Kingdom for the year 1955. Around the World in 80 Days was the second highest grossing film of 1956 (after the juggernaut that was The Ten Commandments). It earned Michael Anderson an Oscar nomination for Best Director and won the Oscars for Best Picture; Best Cinematography, Colour; Best Film Editing; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture; and Best Writing, Best Screenplay, Adapted.

In the Sixties Michael Anderson directed The Naked Edge (1961), Flight from Ashiya (1964), Wild and Wonderful (1964), Operation Crossbow (1965), The Quiller Memorandum (1966), and The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968).  In the Seventies Mr. Anderson directed Pope Joan (1972), Doc Savage (1975), Conduct Unbecoming (1975), Logan's Run (1976), Orca (1977), and Dominique (1979). He directed the television mini-series The Martian Chronicles.

In the Eighties Michael Anderson directed Murder by Phone (1982), Second Time Lucky (1984), Separate Vacations (1986), La bottega dell'orefice (1988), and Millennium (1989).  He directed the TV movie Sword of Gideon. In the Nineties he directed the TV movies Young Catherine, The Sea Wolf, Rugged Gold, Captains Courageous, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He directed the films Scales of Justice (1992), Summer of the Monkeys (1998), and The New Adventures of Pinocchio (1999).

Michael Anderson was a very talented director. Arguably he was at his best directing war films. The Dam Busters is not only a classic of the genre, but arguably one of the greatest films ever made. Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst and Operation Crossbow also number among Mr. Anderson's best films. Of course, he could make films in other genres. Around the World in 80 Days stands out as one of his greatest achievements (it set the records for most camera set ups, most sets, most costumes, and most people shot in separate locations worldwide). His later work in television was often better than some of his work in feature films. Mr. Anderson did have some misfires in his career, but even when a particular movie's script might not be up to par, his direction was always excellent.

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