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Charles Crichton

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Also Known As: Charles Ainslie Crichton Died: September 14, 1999
Born: August 6, 1910 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Cheshire, England, GB Profession: director, producer, editor, screenwriter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

British director Charles Crichton entered the industry as an assistant editor for Alexander Korda's London Films, working on four pictures helmed by the Korda brothers (including "The Private Life of Henry VIII", which featured Charles Laughton's Oscar-winning performance) before earning his first credit as editor on Zoltan Korda's "Sanders of the River" (1935). He moved to Ealing Studios in 1940 and eventually made his feature directing debut with "For Those in Peril" (1944). Beginning with his breakthrough film , the delightful "Hue and Cry (1946), Crichton became established as a key architect (along with the likes of Alexander Mackendrick, Henry Cornelius and Robert Hammer) of the eccentric style of the Ealing comedies, sophisticated satires of the late 40s and 50s. His most remarkable effort was "The Lavender Hill Mob" (1951), with frequent Ealing headliner Alec Guinness as a bank clerk who plots a robbery. Both "The Titfield Thunderbolt" (1953) for Ealing and "The Battle of the Sexes" (1959), a non-Ealing movie starring Peter Sellers, were also first-rate. Although primarily known for his comedies, Crichton proved capable at the helm of dramas like "Against the Wind" (1948), a taut, engrossing...

British director Charles Crichton entered the industry as an assistant editor for Alexander Korda's London Films, working on four pictures helmed by the Korda brothers (including "The Private Life of Henry VIII", which featured Charles Laughton's Oscar-winning performance) before earning his first credit as editor on Zoltan Korda's "Sanders of the River" (1935). He moved to Ealing Studios in 1940 and eventually made his feature directing debut with "For Those in Peril" (1944). Beginning with his breakthrough film , the delightful "Hue and Cry (1946), Crichton became established as a key architect (along with the likes of Alexander Mackendrick, Henry Cornelius and Robert Hammer) of the eccentric style of the Ealing comedies, sophisticated satires of the late 40s and 50s. His most remarkable effort was "The Lavender Hill Mob" (1951), with frequent Ealing headliner Alec Guinness as a bank clerk who plots a robbery. Both "The Titfield Thunderbolt" (1953) for Ealing and "The Battle of the Sexes" (1959), a non-Ealing movie starring Peter Sellers, were also first-rate.

Although primarily known for his comedies, Crichton proved capable at the helm of dramas like "Against the Wind" (1948), a taut, engrossing tale of espionage during World War II, and "Hunted/The Stranger in Between" (1951), in which he elicited a fine performance from youngster Jon Whiteley who was cast opposite Dirk Bogarde. This success further enhanced his reputation as an excellent director of child actors first acquired for his work with the Cockney kids of "Hue and Cry". He would also direct children to good effect in "The Divided Heart" (1954), "The Boy Who Stole a Million" (1960, which he co-scripted) and episodes of the British TV serial "The Adventures of Black Beauty" in the early 70s. Crichton's first screenwriting credit was on "Floods of Fear" (1958). a drama about a prisoner on the lam, who performs heroic deeds during a flood, later proving his innocence and winning the girl's love.

After his final Ealing film "The Man in the Sky/Decision Against Time" (1956), Crichton's feature output has been minimal. One can only muse about where his career might have gone had he not pulled out of his first US picture, "The Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962), due to disputes with producer-star Burt Lancaster. British TV (most notably "The Avengers" series), however, offered a comfortable safety net. Crichton also made many documentaries for John Cleese's industrial training film company, Video Arts, setting the stage for, arguably, his greatest triumph. After a 20-year absence, he imbued "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988) with the spirit of the old Ealing comedies, directing Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin in a hilarious farce full of clever twists and double-crosses that provided the actors ample opportunities to exploit their goofy characterizations. His swan song brought him Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay (written by Cleese from Crichton's story).

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  A Fish Called Wanda (1988) Director
2.
  He Who Rides a Tiger (1968) Director
3.
  The Third Secret (1964) Director
4.
5.
6.
  Law and Disorder (1958) Director
7.
  Floods of Fear (1958) Director
8.
  Decision Against Time (1957) Director
9.
  Divided Heart, The (1955) Director
10.

CAST: (feature film)

VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1931:
Entered industry as assistant editor at Alexander Korda's London Films
1932:
First credit as assistant editor, "Men of Tomorrow"
1935:
First film as editor, "Sanders of the River"
1940:
Edited Ludwig Berger's lush version of "The Thief of Bagdad"
1940:
Joined Michael Balcon's Ealing Studios; initially editing documentary films for Albert Cavalcanti
1941:
Directorial debut, the short "The Young Veterans"; often attributed to Crichton although on-screen credits list Albert Cavalcanti as director with Crichton as editor
1941:
First producing credit as associate producer on "Find Fix and Strike"
1944:
Feature directorial debut, "For Those in Peril"
1946:
Breakthrough film, "Hue and Cry", regarded as the forerunner of the Ealing comedy cult; written by T E B Clarke
1948:
Reteamed with Clarke for the drama "Against the Wind"
1951:
Directed landmark Ealing comedy, "The Lavender Hill Mob", starring Alec Guinness; film received an Oscar for Clarke's screenplay
1953:
Helmed "The Titfield Thunderbolt", another Ealing comedy scripted by Clarke
1954:
Returned to drama for "The Divided Heart", an intelligent study of the dilemma faced by parents of foster child when real mother, thought dead, surfaces to claim son; winner of three British Film Academy Awards
1956:
Last film for Ealing, "The Man in the Sky"
1958:
Final collaboration with Clarke, "Law and Disorder"
1958:
First screenwriting credit, "Floods of Fear"
1961:
Began first Hollywood film, "Birdman of Alcatraz," but left soon after shooting commenced due to conflicts with producer-star Burt Lancaster
:
During the 1960s, directed episodes of such British TV series as "The Avengers", "Danger Man", "The Man in the Suitcase" and "Strange Report"
1969:
Attempted to collaborate on a film with John Cleese, but project never got off the ground
:
Made many documentaries for Cleese's industrial training film company, Video Arts
1971:
Helmed episodes of "Shirley's World" (ABC), starring Shirley MacLaine; series filmed on location in England, Scotland, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and other locales
:
Showed his sci-fi chops helming episodes of British TV series, "Space: 1999"
:
Directed episodes of "The Return of the Saint" (airing in the USA on CBS)
1988:
Made triumphant return to features, directing Cleese in "A Fish Called Wanda"; earned Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay (co-written with Cleese); Kevin Kline walked off with Oscar as Best Supporting Actor
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

New College, Oxford University: -
Oundle Public School: Oundle , Northamptonshire -

Notes

About his experience on "Birdman of Alcatraz", which he left soon after shooting began: "Had I known that Burt Lancaster was to be de facto producer, I do not think I would have accepted the assignment as he had a reputation for quarreling with better directors than I. But Harold Hecht, the credited producer, had assured me that there would be no interference from Lancaster. This did not prove to be the case." --Charles Crichton quoted in Film Dope, Number 8.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Vera Harman-Mills. Married in 1936; divorced; mother of Crichton's two sons.
wife:
Nadine Haze. French; married in 1962; survived him.

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