Ken Annakin


Director
Ken Annakin

About

Also Known As
Kenneth Annakin
Birth Place
Yorkshire, England, GB
Born
August 10, 1914
Died
April 22, 2009
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

A versatile filmmaker, skilled at light comedies, dramas and oversized adventures, Ken Annakin was the director of such box office hits as "The Swiss Family Robinson" (1960), "The Longest Day" (1962) and "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" (1965). He spent his twenties in search of excitement across three continents before returning to his native England and serving in World...

Family & Companions

Pauline Annakin
Wife

Bibliography

"So You Wanna Be a Director"
Ken Annakin (2001)

Notes

He was presented with the 2002 Disney Legends Award.

Biography

A versatile filmmaker, skilled at light comedies, dramas and oversized adventures, Ken Annakin was the director of such box office hits as "The Swiss Family Robinson" (1960), "The Longest Day" (1962) and "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" (1965). He spent his twenties in search of excitement across three continents before returning to his native England and serving in World War II; the conflict would introduce him to the film industry, where he would begin his career in documentaries before moving to features in the late 1940s. A string of genial comedies and dramas preceded his association with Walt Disney Pictures, which yielded his biggest international hits, including "Robinson." Later, his talents were put to use on sprawling projects like "Longest Day" and "Flying Machines." Though his career wound down in the late 1970s, he remained active until a decade prior to his death in 2009; his body of work, filled with entertaining and enduring pictures, left him with a notable legacy in the world cinema community.

He was born Kenneth Cooper Annakin on Aug. 10, 1914 in Beverley, the county town of East Yorkshire, England. After completing his education, he worked in civil service as an income tax inspector in the city of Hull, but according to his 2001 autobiography, So You Wanna Be a Director? a windfall from a horse race bet allowed him to flee his mundane existence, and he enjoyed some adventurous years in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. In the course of his travels, he worked as a journalist; even spending some time as a gold prospector.

Annakin eventually returned to the UK, where he sold cars and insurance until the outbreak of World War II, when he joined the Royal Air Force as a flight mechanic. He was released from service in 1942 after being injured during the German blitz on Liverpool, and joined the film industry as a camera operator on training films for the RAF and documentaries for the Ministry of Information and the Army, among others. While working with acclaimed filmmaker Carol Reed on the recruitment film "We Serve" (1942), Annakin was promoted to assistant director. He eventually made his directorial debut on the short, "London 1942" (1942), a documentary about the indomitable spirit of London residents under the strain of war. His full-length documentary debut came three years later with "Make Fruitful the Land" (1945).

He continued to turn out recruitment and information films until 1946, when producer Sydney Box, head of Verity Films, which produced Annakin's wartime documentaries, invited him to direct a feature film for his new company, Gainsborough Pictures. His first effort, "Holiday Camp" (1947), was a gentle comedy about a working class family, the Huggetts, who encounter mild comic intrigue during their annual visit to a holiday camp. The film struck a chord with moviegoers, especially in its gentle portrayal of everyday life and its people. Its success generated three sequels - 1948's "Here Come the Huggets," "Vote for Huggett" (1949) and "The Huggetts Abroad" (1949) - all directed by Annakin.

As the 1940s drew to a close, Annakin helmed a string of popular dramas and comedies, including "Miranda" (1948), about a mild-mannered doctor who discovers a real mermaid (Glynis Johns), and "The Colonel's Lady," an adaptation of the Somerset Maugham story for the portmanteau film, "Quartet" (1948). His career truly began to blossom in the 1950s, when he divided his time between big-budget adventures for Walt Disney Pictures, and smaller, more intimate dramas and comedies. Annakin's relationship with Disney began with "The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men" (1952), a robust and well-crafted action-drama that set the tone for his subsequent work for the company. He would later add "The Sword and the Rose" (1953), about Mary Tudor (Glynis Johns), sister of Henry VIII, and "Third Man on the Mountain" (1959), which concerned a young Swiss man (James MacArthur - later the star of "Hawaii 5-0") who sets out to conquer the Matterhorn. The film would eventually serve as the inspiration for the attraction of the same name at Disneyland. MacArthur would reunite with Annakin for "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960), a rousing adaptation of the Johann David Wyss novel about a hardy family who makes the best of their lives after being shipwrecked in the South Seas. The picture, which featured Annakin's traditional balance of family-driven warmth and stirring action - including a massive battle between the family and a crew of Japanese pirates, as well as numerous scenes involving animal performers - took in over $40 million at the box office, making it one of the most successful family features ever produced.

Annakin's dramas and comedies from the period also benefited from his blend of human emotion and entertaining content - most notably "Hotel Sahara" (1951), starring Peter Ustinov as the owner of the title property, whose allegiance lies with whatever army happens to be in town at the time, and the tense drama "Across The River" (1957), with Rod Steiger as an embezzler who accidentally assumes the identity of a wanted murderer. The latter, adapted from a Graham Greene novel, was Annakin's favorite project of the period. After a few more modest pictures along these lines, Annakin settled into a string of high profile features that would largely define the next few decades of his career.

Annakin was one of five directors who worked on Darryl F. Zanuck's epic World War II drama, "The Longest Day." The all-star drama, which detailed the invasion of Normandy from all sides of the conflict, credited Annakin with the exterior scenes involving the British army - which counted Sean Connery and Richard Burton among their number - and the French, which featured Christian Marquand, Arletty and Jean Servais, as well as most of the scenes shot in studios. The film provided a terrific showcase for Annakin's skill with both action set pieces and more intimate drama, and led to his being hired to helm the Cinerama feature "The Battle of the Bulge" (1965), starring Henry Fonda as an American officer attempting to warn his superiors of Nazi commander Robert Shaw's surprise attack on Allied Forces. Annakin also oversaw the turn-of-the-century comedy "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines" (1966), about an early aviation race from London to Paris. The film - which featured some of the finest British comic performers of the 1960s in its cast, including Terry-Thomas, Robert Morley and Benny Hill, as well as the legendary Red Skelton - was a major success and earned him his sole Oscar nod for Best Screenplay, which he shared with Jack Davies. Annakin also directed the semi-sequel, "Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies" (1969), featuring Tony Curtis, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, but it failed to achieve the same level of frothy fun as its predecessor.

Annakin's other late 1960s efforts were largely hit or miss. The caper film "The Biggest Bundle of Them All" (1969) was largely built around showcasing the impressive frame of star Raquel Welch, though Robert Wagner, Edward G. Robinson, Godfrey Cambridge and Vittorio De Sica lent a degree of class and panache. The 1970s saw Annakin scale back his output to a considerable degree; few saw his take on "The Call of The Wild" (1972), with Charlton Heston amidst a cast of European talent, or "Paper Tiger" (1975), a kidnapping drama with David Niven and Toshiro Mifune. By the middle of the decade, Annakin lent his professional polish to such American TV productions as "Harold Robbins' The Pirate" (CBS, 1978). He would return to features a year later with "The Fifth Musketeer" (1979), a handsomely mounted, old-fashioned swashbuckler about Alexandre Dumas' Musketeers in their twilight years. Despite a terrific cast that included Rex Harrison, Cornel Wilde, Lloyd Bridges and Ian McShane, the film failed to find an audience. Even less popular was "The Pirate Movie" (1982), an ill-conceived fantasy-musical inspired by the hit Broadway revival of "The Pirates of Penzance" and starring Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins as modern-day teens who find themselves in a dream inspired by the comic opera. Roundly panned during its release, it went on to become something of a camp favorite.

Annakin's final completed feature film was 1988's "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking," which reunited him with Disney. Based on the children's novels by Astrid Lindgren, the film was a breezy, colorful adventure-musical much like the studio's output in the 1960s - which left most modern audiences indifferent. The film suffered an ignoble death at the box office, and Annakin's last project, a biopic of "Genghis Khan" (1992), with Caucasian actor Richard Tyson as the Mongol emperor and Charlton Heston, went unfinished after producers were unable to fully fund the project.

In his final years, Annakin's long and accomplished career received several worthy tributes. He was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 2002 for his contributions to that nation's film industry, and Walt Disney, who had released some of his biggest hits, made him a Disney Legend that same year. In February of 2009, his health declined after suffering a heart attack and a stroke within a day of each other, and on April 22, he died at his home in Beverly Hills at the age of 94. In the days following his death, George Lucas dispelled a long-standing rumor by stating that he had not named his character Anakin Skywalker after the filmmaker, as many had long assumed.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Gengis Khan (1998)
Director
The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1988)
Director
The Pirate Movie (1982)
Director
Cheaper to Keep Her (1980)
Director
The Fifth Musketeer (1979)
Director
Institute for Revenge (1979)
Director
Murder at the Mardi Gras (1978)
Director
Paper Tiger (1975)
Director
Call of the Wild (1975)
Director
Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969)
Director
The Biggest Bundle of Them All (1968)
Director
The Long Duel (1967)
Director
Battle of the Bulge (1965)
Director
Underworld Informers (1965)
Director
The Fast Lady (1965)
Director
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines; or How I Flew From London to Paris in 25 Hours and 11 Minutes (1965)
Director
Crooks Anonymous (1963)
Director
The Longest Day (1962)
Director British exteriors
The Hellions (1962)
Director
A Coming-Out Party (1962)
Director
Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Director
Third Man on the Mountain (1959)
Director
Nor The Moon By Night (1959)
Director
Across The Bridge (1957)
Director
Loser Takes All (1956)
Director
Three Men in a Boat (1956)
Director
Value For Money (1955)
Director
Land Of Fury (1954)
Director
You Know What Sailors Are (1954)
Director
The Sword and the Rose (1953)
Director
The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)
Director
Outpost in Malaya (1952)
Director
Hotel Sahara (1951)
Director
Trio (1950)
Director of "The Verger" and "Mr. Know-All"
Double Confession (1950)
Director
Quartet (1949)
Director ["The Colonel's Lady"]
Huggetts Abroad (1949)
Director
Vote For Huggetts (1949)
Director
Landfall (1949)
Director
Miranda (1948)
Director
Here Come the Huggetts (1948)
Director
Holiday Camp (1947)
Director

Assistant Direction (Feature Film)

Immortal Battalion (1944)
Assistant Director

Writer (Feature Film)

Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969)
Screenwriter
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines; or How I Flew From London to Paris in 25 Hours and 11 Minutes (1965)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1988)
Coproducer
Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969)
Producer
The Long Duel (1967)
Producer

Production Companies (Feature Film)

Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969)
Company
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines; or How I Flew From London to Paris in 25 Hours and 11 Minutes (1965)
Company

Director (Special)

Hunter's Moon (1979)
Director

Producer (Special)

Hunter's Moon (1979)
Producer

Life Events

1942

Worked as camera assistant with Verity Films

1943

Short film co-directing debut, "London - 1942"

1945

Documentary feature film directing debut, "Make Fruitful the Land"

1946

Joined Gainsborough films as a director

1947

Feature directing debut, "Holiday Camp"

1952

First film with Walt Disney, "The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men"

1960

Directed one of the Disney's biggest live-action hits of the era, "Swiss Family Robinson"

1962

Credited as a co-director on Darryl F. Zanuck's epic 1962 D-day drama "The Longest Day"

1966

Shared an Oscar with Jack Davies for their original screenplay for "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines"

1968

Directed Robert Wagner in the crime comedy "The Biggest Bundle of Them All"

1988

Last completed film was "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking"

2001

Published autobiography, <i>So You Wanna Be a Director?</i>

Videos

Movie Clip

Longest Day, The (1962) - Maybe I Was Wrong About Rhoda First appearance of Rod Steiger as a fictional American navy destroyer commander, joining in the overnight assault in the early hours of June 6 , 1944, then on the deck Jeffrey Hunter as fictional Fuller, Joseph Lowe as “Sparrow,” Peter Helm as Mac, more anecdotes as producer Darryl F. Zanuck builds toward the D-Day invasion, in The Longest Day, 1962.
Longest Day, The (1962) - Request Reluctantly Approved Peter Lawford as Lovat, (Scottish-born British aristocrat Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser, a real person) minimizing his oratory en route to the D-Day invasion, then Edmond O’Brien as Gen. Barton, and Henry Fonda (then 56, the same age as his character) finally appearing 90 minutes into the picture as Gen. Teddy Roosevelt Jr., dramatizing a famous actual event, in The Longest Day, 1962.
Longest Day, The (1962) - Send 'Em To Hell Robert Ryan as (the real) Gen. Gavin seems to be loving this bit with the flashlight, then Jack Hedley as an RAF officer briefing the men on a (real!) tactical gag, then John Wayne again as Col. Vandevoort (also a real person) with another (factual!) gimmick, and grim appraisal, building toward the event in Darryl F. Zanuck’s D-Day behemoth The Longest Day, 1962.
Longest Day, The (1962) - We Keep Getting Fewer First appearance for Richard Burton of course as the solitary Brit flyer entering the HQ tavern, just managing a joke about the brew when he’s approached by fellow Donald Houston, and shares word of a lost colleague, beginning another story-line, in producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s D-Day epic The Longest Day, 1962.
Longest Day, The (1962) - Why'd He Have To Mention Fort Bragg? In an airplane hangar in England converted to barracks, we’ve just met Red Buttons as American G.I. Steele and Richard Beymer as Schultz, having something of a personal reckoning, observed by buddy Martini (Sal Mineo), awaiting D-Day, in producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s The Longest Day. 1962.
Longest Day, The (1962) - Open, London Calling Opening and scene-setting for producer Darryl F. Zanuck, hard to say which of his directors (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki) might be working here, the first introduced characters are Paul Hartmann as a German officer, and Zanuck’s paramour Irina Demick as a French partisan, in the expansive D-Day epic The Longest Day. 1962.
Battle Of The Bulge (1965) - December, 1944 William Conrad (TV's "Cannon") narrates as Kiley (Henry Fonda) and pilot Joe (Robert Woods) buzz Nazi Hessler (Robert Shaw) and driver (Hans Christian Blech), opening director Ken Annakin's Battle Of the Bulge, 1965.
Battle Of The Bulge (1965) - Trying To Shorten The War? Introduction of more important but fictional characters, Robert Ryan as General Grey, Dana Andrews as Col. Pritchard, disagreeing over the intelligence report from Henry Fonda as Lt. Colonel Kiley, early in the Warner Bros./Cinerama productuion Battle Of The Bulge. 1965.
Miranda (1948) - You're My First Adventure London doctor Paul (Griffith Jones) and wife Clare (Googie Withers) agree he’ll go alone on fishing vacation at Pendower, Cornwall, neither knowing he will hook mermaid Glynis Johns (title character), as light comedy leaps into fantasy, in director Ken Annakin’s hit Miranda, 1948.
Miranda (1948) - Did You Catch Any Big Ones? Chauffeur Charles (David Tomlinson) and wife Clare (Googie Withers) worry about doctor Paul (Griffith Jones) bringing home a mysterious patient (Glynis Johns, title character) from the south coast, whom he hasn’t quite explained is a young mermaid eager to see London, in Miranda, 1948.
Miranda (1948) - Have An Oyster Difficulties for doctor Paul (Griffith Jones), who hasn’t told his wife (Googie Withers) or staff (Yvonne Owen, David Tomlinson) that his live-in invalid patient (Glynis Johns, title character) is a mermaid, so he takes the nurse (Margaret Rutherford) into his confidence, in Miranda, 1948.
Battle Of The Bulge (1965) - This Great Deception General Kohler (Werner Peters) tries hard to impress upon Hessler (Robert Shaw) just how prepared and diabolical the remaining German army is, early in director Ken Annakin's Battle Of The Bulge, 1965.

Trailer

Companions

Pauline Annakin
Wife

Bibliography

"So You Wanna Be a Director"
Ken Annakin (2001)

Notes

He was presented with the 2002 Disney Legends Award.