Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jack Cardiff and Ken Annakin Pass On

Two individuals in the movie world passed on recently. Jack Cardiff was an Academy Award winning, British cinematographer who worked on films ranging from The Red Shoes to The African Queen. Ken Annakin was the director behind such films as Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and Swiss Family Robinson.

Jack Cardiff O.B.E. passed April 22 at the age of 94. His career spanned from the Silent Era to the Naughts.

Jack Cardiff was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk on September 18, 1914. His parents were entertainers in music halls. Cardiff was still young when he appeared as an actor in both music halls and on the big screen. As an actor he appeared in My Son, My Son in 1918 and Bily's Rose in 1922, among other films. While his parents moved frequently, Cardiff started visiting museums at age 9, becoming studying the works of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and the Impressionists. By age 15 he was working as a camera assistant and production runner for British International Pictures. Cardiff rose through the ranks from clapper boy on Harmony Heaven in 1929 to camera operator on Honeymoon for Three in 1935. Among the films on which Jack Cardiff was a camera operator were Brewster's Millions (1935), Things to Come (1936), The Four Feathers (1939), and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943).

His first experience as a cinematographer came on Ernest B. Schoedsack's The Last Days of Pompeii in 1935, for which he was not credited. Over the next several years he would be cinematographer on several documentary shorts. He would photograph Gabriel Pascal's Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) and received his big break when director Michael Powell took notice of him. He would be the cinematographer on three of Powell's classic films, A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), and The Red Shoes (1948). For Black Narcissus Cardiff won the Oscar for Best Cinematography. Over the next several decades Jack Cardiff was director of cinematography on several films, including The Black Rose, The African Queen, The Master of Ballantrae (1953), The Vikings, Crossed Swords, Ghost Story, and Rambo: First Blood Part II. His last work was on the mini-series The Other Side of the Screen in 2007.

Jack Cardiff also directed a few times. His directorial debut was The Story of William Tell in 1953, on which he was also cinematographer. He would go onto direct Sons and Lovers (for which he was nominated for the Oscar for Best Director), the sex comedy My Geisha, and The Girl on a Motorcycle.

Cardiff was the first man to shoot a film in Britain in Technicolour, Wings of the Morning (1937). He was nominated for the Oscar for Best Cinematography for War and Peace (1956) and Fanny (1961).

Jack Cardiff was among the greatest cinematographers of all time. He learned his use of light and shadow from studying the works of Rembrandt, and his photographer as easily as beautiful as any painting from the Dutch master. He was also a master of colour. The colours in his films were always vivid, particularly in the films he made with Michael Powell. The 15 minute ballet sequence in The Red Shoes is one of the greatest feats of cinematography in film history. Quite simply, Jack Cardiff was a master whose work was rarely matched and almost never surpassed.

Ken Annakin, who directed family oriented films ranging from comedy to action movies, passed on April 22 at the age of 94.

Annakin was born on August 10, 1914 in Beverley, Yorkshire. Annakin dropped out of school, afterwards becoming a "trainee income tax inspector" in Hull. He escaped from this life after winning 100 pounds in the Derby. He used his winnings to travel to Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Annakin found himself taking various odd jobs after his journey around the world, working as a car salesman, the emcee for a road show, an insurance salesman, and so on. During World War II he joined the RAF where he was initially a flight mechanic. Injured when Liverpool was bombed, Annakin soon found himself a camera operator on RAF training films, as well as documentaries for the British Army, the British Council, and the Ministry of Information. Eventually he became an assistant director and then a director.

Eventually Annakin went to work for Gainsborough Pictures. There he made his first fiction feature film Holiday Camp, a comedy released in 1947. The film proved so successful that it produced three sequels, two of which were directed by Annakin. His second feature film, Miranda, released in 1948, also proved to be a hit. It featured Glynis Johns as a mermaid. That same year Annakin's first adventure film, Broken Journey, was released. The next few years Annakin would direct such films as Double Confession and Hotel Sahara.

It was with The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men in 1952 that Ken Annakin began his successful association with Disney. It was for Disney that Annakin directed what are probably his best known movies: The Sword and the Rose (1953--AKA When Knighthood Was in Flower), Third Man on the Mountain, and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). He continued to direct for other companies, making such films as the comedies Value For Money and Loser Takes All.

The Sixties saw Annakin direct the action movie The Hellions and the British portions of The Longest Day. The mid-Sixties could well have been the height of his career. Annakin directed the well known comedy Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and The Battle of the Bulge. Annakin's later films would not do nearly as well for the most part. He directed Monte Carlo or Bust (AKA Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies, a few television movies, The Fifth Musketeer (on which he worked with Jack Cardiff, who died the same day as he did), and The Pirate Movie. His last completed film was The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, released in 1988.

Ken Annakin was hardly a director with pretensions of artistic greatness. That having been said, he was a commercial director with a gift for creating some of the most entertaining films of their eras. His association with Disney not only some of his best work, but some of that studio's best adventure films as well. His comedies were genuinely funny, something that cannot be said of many of the comedies of this era. Quite simply, Ken Annakin was a master when it came to creating appealing mass entertainment. Few directors saw the success that his did.

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