Charles Crichton

Director, Screenwriter, Producer
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 ... Read more »
Born: 08/06/1910 in Cheshire, England, GB

Filmography

Director (21)

A Fish Called Wanda 1988 (Movie)

(Director)

Return of the Saint 1965 - 1973, 1979 - 1980 (Tv Show)

Director

Space: 1999 1965 - 1973, 1975 - 1976, 1979 - 1980 (Tv Show)

Director

Man in a Suitcase 1965 - 1969, 1972 - 1973 (Tv Show)

Director

Shirley's World 1965 - 1973 (Tv Show)

Director

The Adventures of Black Beauty 1966 - 1968, 1972 - 1973 (Tv Show)

Director

The Avengers 1965 - 1969, 1972 - 1973 (Tv Show)

Director

The Strange Report 1965 - 1973 (Tv Show)

Director

He Who Rides A Tiger 1966 (Movie)

(Director)

The Third Secret 1963 (Movie)

(Director)

The Boy Who Stole a Million 1960 (Movie)

(Director)

The Battle of the Sexes 1959 (Movie)

(Director)

Floods of Fear 1958 (Movie)

(Director)

Law and Disorder 1958 (Movie)

(Director)

The Divided Heart 1955 (Movie)

(Director)

The Man in the Sky 1955 (Movie)

(Director)

Hunted 1951 (Movie)

(Director)

The Lavender Hill Mob 1951 (Movie)

(Director)

Dance Hall (Movie)

(Director)

Hue and Cry (Movie)

(Director)

The Titfield Thunderbolt (Movie)

(Director)
Editor (5)

The Thief of Bagdad 1939 (Movie)

(Editor)

Elephant Boy 1936 (Movie)

(Editor)

21 Days (TV Show)

Editor

Prison without Bars (Movie)

(Editor)

Sanders of the River (Movie)

(Editor)
Writer (3)

A Fish Called Wanda 1988 (Movie)

(From Story)

The Boy Who Stole a Million 1960 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

Floods of Fear 1958 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

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).

Relationships

Vera Harman-Mills

Wife
married in 1936 divorced mother of Crichton's two sons

Nadine Haze

Wife
French married in 1962 survived him

EDUCATION

Oundle Public School

Oundle , Northamptonshire

New College, Oxford University

Milestones

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

1970

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

1968

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

1961

Began first Hollywood film, "Birdman of Alcatraz," but left soon after shooting commenced due to conflicts with producer-star Burt Lancaster

1958

Final collaboration with Clarke, "Law and Disorder"

1958

First screenwriting credit, "Floods of Fear"

1956

Last film for Ealing, "The Man in the Sky"

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

1953

Helmed "The Titfield Thunderbolt", another Ealing comedy scripted by Clarke

1951

Directed landmark Ealing comedy, "The Lavender Hill Mob", starring Alec Guinness; film received an Oscar for Clarke's screenplay

1948

Reteamed with Clarke for the drama "Against the Wind"

1946

Breakthrough film, "Hue and Cry", regarded as the forerunner of the Ealing comedy cult; written by T E B Clarke

1943

Feature directorial debut, "For Those in Peril"

1940

Directorial debut, the short "The Young Veterans"; often attributed to Crichton although on-screen credits list Albert Cavalcanti as director with Crichton as editor

1940

First producing credit as associate producer on "Find Fix and Strike"

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

1935

First film as editor, "Sanders of the River"

1932

First credit as assistant editor, "Men of Tomorrow"

1931

Entered industry as assistant editor at Alexander Korda's London Films

Showed his sci-fi chops helming episodes of British TV series, "Space: 1999"

During the 1960s, directed episodes of such British TV series as "The Avengers", "Danger Man", "The Man in the Suitcase" and "Strange Report"

Made many documentaries for Cleese's industrial training film company, Video Arts

Directed episodes of "The Return of the Saint" (airing in the USA on CBS)

Bonus Trivia

.

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.

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