Charles Crichton


Director

About

Also Known As
Charles Ainslie Crichton
Birth Place
Cheshire, England, GB
Born
August 06, 1910
Died
September 14, 1999

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 Studio...

Family & Companions

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

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.

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 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).

Life Events

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

1969

Attempted to collaborate on a film with John Cleese, but project never got off the ground

1971

Helmed episodes of "Shirley's World" (ABC), starring Shirley MacLaine; series filmed on location in England, Scotland, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and other locales

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

Videos

Movie Clip

Dead of Night (1945) - The Golfing Story George (Basil Radford) must stay within six feet of a ghost (Naunton Wayne) on his wedding night in "The Golfing Story" from the anthology Dead of Night, 1945.
Lavender Hill Mob, The (1951) - We're Both Honest Men Quoting Shakespeare and demonstrating both vocation and avocation, Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) is attentive enough to catch Holland (Alec Guinness) making a larcenous suggestion, in The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951.
Lavender Hill Mob, The (1951) - Victims Of The Revolution Alec Guinness (as "Holland") in the marvelous opening scene, made better when Chiquita (Audrey Hepburn in a walk-on!) appears, from the Ealing Studios hit comedy The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951.
Lavender Hill Mob, The (1951) - Someone Far Bigger Holland (Alec Guinness) and Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) are not so much lying-in-wait as recruiting, enticing thieves Shorty (Alfie Bass) and Lackery (Sidney James) into their band in The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951.
Lavender Hill Mob, The (1951) - Many A Rascal Holland (Alec Guinness) continues his flashback narration, leading to a scene introducing Mrs. Chalk (Marjorie Fielding) and cohort-to-be Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) in the Ealing Studios hit comedy The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951.
Floods Of Fear (1958) - You Can't Swim With That On First of several scenes in which Anne Heywood (as "Elizabeth") is disrobed, as convict Donovan (Howard Keel), his work gang swamped by a Nevada flood, rescues her from same, in the British-made action-thriller Floods Of Fear, 1958.
Floods Of Fear (1958) - That's For Screws Creepy convict Peebles (Cyril Cusack) threatens Elizabeth (Anne Heywood) before prison guard Sharkey (Harry H. Corbett) then good-guy convict Donovan (Howard Keel) intervene, all of them stranded at her Nevada ranch, in Floods Of Fear, 1958.

Trailer

Companions

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

Bibliography

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.