R.I.P. Michael Anderson

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Re: R.I.P. Michael Anderson

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Apr 28, 2018 9:28 am

This is a terrible obituary. It reads like it was written by a crew member of the filming of The Dam Busters, a 1955 hit in the U.K., not so much anywhere else. It did not lead directly to his direction of Around the World in 80 Days, but to the first film of 1984 starring Edmond O'Brien. Great bit of trivia - Anderson's son Michael Jr. was later married to O'Brien's daughter Maria with whom they had a child of which Anderson and O'Brien were both grandfathers.
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R.I.P. Michael Anderson

Postby Reza » Sat Apr 28, 2018 8:48 am

Michael Anderson obituary

Unflappable film director whose Dam Busters is one of the greatest British war films ever made

April 28, 2018, London Times

So keen was Michael Anderson on making The Dam Busters (1955) seem authentic, he used RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire as a location. This was the base from which the 19 fabled Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron had taken off in 1943 on their daring raid on the dams of the Ruhr valley.

On the first day there he was approached by a (real) air vice-marshal, who harrumphed: “I knew you film people were here because I just bumped into another air vice-marshal strolling around the hangars and he was . . .” — the air vice-marshal winced at the memory — “chewing gum.”

Anderson had directed only a few minor features before taking charge of the film, and had immediately thrown himself into meticulous research, but the portents were not good. The war had been over for a decade and the public seemed to be tiring of films celebrating British bravery and endeavour.

However, his film, starring Michael Redgrave as Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the “bouncing bomb”, and Richard Todd as Wing Commander Guy Gibson, turned out to be hugely popular, and became a classic of its kind — the greatest British war film ever made, according to some critics. “The Dam Busters is a picture without a blemish. It is thrilling. It is moving. It is true. And I think you should be proud to see it,” wrote one reviewer.

Certainly the film helped to turn the dam busters raid into something approaching a national myth. Just as Churchill’s speeches had mythologised Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, so Anderson’s film, with its theme of grace under pressure, seemed to speak to a British sense of national character. On the football terraces crowds would sing The Dam Busters theme by Eric Coates with arms outstretched like wings. An affectionate parody of the film from 1989, part of the “I bet he drinks Carling Black Label” campaign, still appears in lists of the most popular adverts. And Ricky Gervais had his character David Brent evoke the “spirit of the dam busters” in The Office, though his hopeless assistant Gareth could not get past the name of Gibson’s dog, “Nigger”. It had caused problems even in the less politically correct 1950s and was renamed Trigger for American release. In 1999 ITV controversially broadcast the film with all mention of the dog’s name cut, thereby introducing continuity errors.

Anderson was such a stickler for accuracy that he would not countenance changing the dog’s name. He shot it in black and white, which added to its quasi-documentary feel and allowed him to incorporate real footage of bomb tests. He also employed an ambitious mix of real aircraft, studio reconstructions and scale models.

Anderson and his production team bought three old, but just about working “Lancs” for “next to nothing”, but then realised it would cost thousands to recondition them and £130 (about £3,500 today) an hour to fly them. They then nearly lost one on the first day of filming when one of its big rubber tyres hit the hangar roof on take-off. A white-faced officer came running down from the control tower. “Look here you chaps, you told me they would be flying low. But when I look out and see them flying underneath my tower, that’s going too far!”

Another headache for Anderson was that the film depicted real people who would need to read the script and give their permission for their words to be used. He received one letter from the notoriously prickly Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, who complained he was being made to look inhuman. A second letter, from another senior RAF officer, complained that “Bomber” Harris had been made to look “too human”. Fortunately, the director’s nickname around the MGM studios was the Unflappable Mr Anderson.

He was born Michael Joseph Anderson in London in 1920, into a theatrical family. His parents, Lawrence and Beatrice, were actors and Michael appeared in small roles in films in his mid-teens. Mickey, as he was then known, found more regular work at Elstree Studios as an office boy and runner, graduating to assistant director in the late 1930s, in which capacity he worked on Pygmalion (1938) and Noël Coward’s In Which We Serve (1942). During the Second World War he served with the Royal Signals Corps and met Peter Ustinov. He went on to become Ustinov’s assistant director on School for Secrets.

The success of The Dam Busters, and his mastery of action and scale, propelled the 5ft 6in Anderson into the Hollywood limelight, and he was given charge of the big-budget adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, with David Niven as Phileas Fogg and Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton and Marlene Dietrich in cameo roles.

It was shot at more than 110 locations, plus studios in Hollywood, England, Hong Kong and Tokyo, and it was claimed that it used more actors and extras than any other film (68,894). Critics called it a victim of its ambition, but the film was a hit at the box office and won an Academy award for best picture. Anderson had to content himself with a nomination for best director.

In the films that followed, not all of them memorable, he directed a number of other Hollywood legends, including James Cagney, Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston. Operation Crossbow (1965) was one of three further films he made with Todd, and it served as a belated companion piece to The Dam Busters.

However, public tastes had moved on, and Anderson tried to tap into the passion for espionage dramas with The Quiller Memorandum (1966), starring George Segal and Alec Guinness. With a script by Harold Pinter, it remains one of his most interesting films. At the time it was dismissed by the British Film Institute’s Monthly Film Bulletin (and other publications), with the reviewer complaining of “cardboard” characters and a “funereal pace”, but a revisionist BFI review now praises the complexity of its characters and its “dreamlike, ritualistic, almost fairytale atmosphere”.

While his early career was dominated by action films and thrillers, latterly he showed an inclination for science fiction, directing Logan’s Run in 1976 and the TV mini-series adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, both of which featured his son, the actor Michael Anderson Jr.

He and his siblings, David, a producer, Peter, a director, Jan, a nurse, and Sally, were the product of Anderson’s first marriage, in 1939, to Betty Jordan, who was a film extra. His second marriage, in 1969, was to Vera Carlisle, a journalist. In later life Anderson made his home in Canada. He is survived by his third wife, the actress Adrienne Ellis, with whom he had two stepchildren, the actress Laurie Holden and Christopher Holden, a film director. With them, his son Michael, as well as Emilie, his stepdaughter from his second marriage, also survive him.

Anderson had a sweet tooth, and his greatest pleasure in old age was watching favoured films such as The Imitation Game with his grandchildren while eating lemon cream cake. A few days before his death he released passages of an unpublished memoir to promote a restoration of The Dam Busters, due for release next month. To the end, it seemed, his life remained woven into the fabric of his greatest film.

Michael Anderson, film director, was born on January 30, 1920. He died on April 25, 2018, aged 98

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