John English (director)

John Wilkinson English (25 June 1903 11 October 1969) was a British film editor and film director. He is most famous for the film serials he co-directed with William Witney for Republic Pictures such as Zorro's Fighting Legion and Drums of Fu Manchu.[1]

John English
John Wilkinson English

(1903-06-25)25 June 1903
Died11 October 1969(1969-10-11) (aged 66)
Other namesJohn W. English
Jack English
OccupationFilm director, film editor

He was credited variously as John W English, John English or Jack English.


John English was born in Cumberland in the United Kingdom but moved to Canada at an early age. He first worked as a film editor before getting a break into directing at Republic in 1935.

For a period in the 1930s and 1940s, starting with Zorro Rides Again (1937), he directed Movie Serials in partnership with William Witney. It was customary at the time for two directors to work on each serial, each working on alternate days. Witney customarily worked on the action scenes while English concentrated on character and story elements. Together they are regarded as having produced the best examples of the serial medium: "most notable of all were the directing talents of William Witney and John English. Together they directed seventeen consecutive serials, honing an approach that allowed Republic serials to far outdistance the competition. They adopted a no-nonsense approach that treated the serial material with respect and rarely gave any clues that we shouldn't consider the stories seriously. Other directors would allow an element of goofiness to gradually seep into the serial. For example, few people would point to a Witney/English serial as an example of camp, unlike the Flash Gordon serials." - Gary Johnson, from Images Journal.[2]

They directed seventeen serials as a partnership and a few others separately, such as Captain America (1944) in John English's case.

Following disagreement with management changes at Republic's serial team, he moved to directing features films, mostly the B-Western films for which Republic was known. In the post war era whilst William Witney directed a series of Roy Rogers films for Republic, English directed a series of Gene Autry pictures for Columbia Pictures.

In the 1952-1953 television season, English directed several episodes of Alan Hale, Jr.'s Biff Baker, U.S.A. espionage series on CBS. He thereafter directed twelve episodes of the CBS western series My Friend Flicka (1956–1957), and 18 episodes of Lassie (1954 TV series) (1964–1965).[3] English also directed several episodes of The Gene Autry Show, The Adventures of Champion, Annie Oakley, and The Roy Rogers Show.

When Republic collapsed as a studio in 1959, he continued directing television episodes at the same studio lot.[4]


  1. "Serial Films". American Movie Classics Company LLC. 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  2. The Golden Age of the Serial, retrieved 24 June 2007
  3. "John English (I)". IMDB. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  4. John English at Allmovie Archived 26 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 24 June 2007

Selected filmography

As director
As editor

Further reading

  • William Witney, "In a Door, Into a Fight, Out a Door, Into a Chase: Moviemaking Remembered by the Guy at the Door". McFarland & Company, 2008, 350pp. ISBN 0-7864-2258-0. Chapter 8 is titled "John English".
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