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Ref No LA/1
Title Films
Description Although not a prolific director, Lindsay Anderson is best known as a film-maker. In a career spanning over 40 years he directed only 6 feature films and a small number of short films and documentaries. Anderson began his film-making career producing short industrial films for an engineering firm in Wakefield, Richard Sutlicffe Ltd. He produced 4 films for Suttcliffe; Meet the Pioneers (1948), Idlers That Work (1949), Three Installations (1952) and Trunk Conveyor (1952). In 1953 Anderson co-directed a documentary with Guy Brenton about a school for deaf children in Margate. The film, Thursday's Children, won an Oscar for best documentary short in 1954. While in Margate Anderson shot his own short film, O Dreamland, an unsettling depiction of a seaside amusement park. O Dreamland formed part of the first 'Free Cinema' programme screened at the National Film Theatre in February 1956. The term 'Free Cinema' was coined by a group of young film-makers including Anderson who found it very difficult to get their work screened. Under the 'Free Cinema' banner works by young directors such as Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz and new works from the US, France and Poland were introduced to British audiences. Anderson contributed two further films to 'Free Cinema' programmes, the documentaries Wakefield Express (1952) and Everyday Except Christmas (1957). This Sporting Life (1963) was Lindsay Anderson's first feature film and the last of the British 'new wave' (or 'kitchen sink') films of the early 1960s. Based on a novel by David Storey about a rugby league player and his troubled relationship with his widowed landlady, the film starred Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts. The film was well received at the Cannes film festival where Richard Harris won the best actor award. Anderson followed This Sporting Life with a couple of experimental short films, The White Bus and The Singing Lesson (both 1967). In 1966 Anderson was sent a screenplay by two young writers David Sherwin and John Howlett based on their experiences of public school. The screenplay, 'Crusaders', formed the basis for If… perhaps Anderson's best-known and most successful film. Starring Malcolm McDowell in his first major film role it is a lyrical tale of teenage rebellion in an English public school. Filmed at Cheltenham College, where Anderson was a pupil in the 1930s, the harsh brutalities and rigid structure of public school mirror the wider inequalities of British society. The iconic image of McDowell, machine-gun blazing, at the end of the film resonated with an audience bombarded with images of protest during the student riots of 1968. The film won the Palm D'or at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival. If… was the first film of what became known as 'the Mick Travis trilogy' It was followed by O Lucky Man (1973) and Britannia Hospital (1982). The three films starred McDowell (playing a character called Mick Travis), featured many of Anderson's unofficial 'company' of actors and were written by David Sherwin. O Lucky Man! follows the picaresque adventures a travelling coffee salesman (Mick Travis) who embarks on a journey round Britain during which he encounters a myriad of characters including mad scientists, shadowy bureaucrats, big businessmen, the Salvation Army and violent tramps. The film tackles a range of subjects including medical experimentation, local corruption, the ethics of big business and urban poverty. A decade later Britannia Hospital finds an investigative reporter (Travis) prowling the corridors of a hospital which is celebrating its 500th anniversary with a royal visit. Preparations for the visit do not go according to plan however, with demonstrators at the gates, hospital staff threatening industrial action and a doctor carrying out secret experiments… In 1974 Anderson directed a film adaptation of David Storey's In Celebration a play he had directed at the Royal Court Theatre in 1969. In the late 1970s Hollywood beckoned and Anderson secured a development deal with Orion Pictures to develop a number of projects. However Anderson abandoned Hollywood when the chance to make Britannia Hospital arose. The film was released in Britain during the Falklands War and was criticised by many journalists and critics for its perceived unpatriotic tone. Its failure at the box office made it increasingly difficult for Anderson to make films in the 1980s. An ill-fated project to film the pop group Wham! performing in China in 1985 was followed by Anderson's last feature film, The Whales of August (1987). The film starred Bette Davis and Lilian Gish as two elderly sisters sharing a summer-house on the Maine coast. In contrast to the anger and excess of the 'Mick Travis trilogy' The Whales of August was a more sedate affair, closer to the classic American cinema Anderson eulogised in his writings on film. The collection includes an extensive record of Anderson's film-making career including scripts, production notes, correspondence, photographs, promotional material and press cuttings. A more detailed account of the material relating to each film present in the collection can be found in the descriptions of the films below (LA 1/01 - 1/11).
Date 1948 - 1993
Level Sub-Collection
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