Michael Anderson (director)

Michael Joseph Anderson (30 January 1920 – 25 April 2018)[1] was an English film director, best known for directing the Second World War film The Dam Busters (1955), the epic Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and the dystopian sci-fi film Logan's Run (1976).

Michael Anderson
Anderson in 1956
Michael Joseph Anderson

(1920-01-30)30 January 1920
London, England
Died25 April 2018(2018-04-25) (aged 98)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
OccupationFilm director
Years active1949–1999 (retired)
Notable work
The Dam Busters
Around the World in 80 Days
Logan's Run
Spouse(s)Betty Jordan (1939–?)
Vera Carlisle (1969–?; divorced)
Adrienne Ellis (m. 1977)
Children2, including Michael Anderson Jr.
RelativesLaurie Holden
Christopher Holden (stepson)

Early life

He was born in London, England, to a theatrical family. His parents were the actors Lawrence (1893–1939) and Beatrice Anderson (1893–1977). His great-aunt was Mary Anderson of Louisville, Kentucky, who became one of the first American Shakespearian actresses; the Mary Anderson Theatre in Louisville was dedicated to her.

Early career

Actor and assistant director

Anderson appeared in two films as an actor: as Oily Boyd in Housemaster (1938); and as Marine Albert Fosdick in Noël Coward's In Which We Serve (1942). He joined Elstree Studios as a production runner in 1936 and became an assistant director by 1938.

His credits as assistant director include Spy for a Day (1940), Freedom Radio (1940), Quiet Wedding (1941), Cottage to Let (1941) and Jeannie (1941). He was unit manager as well as actor on In Which We Serve (1942) and was assistant director on Unpublished Story (1942).

Anderson served with the Royal Signal Corps during the Second World War, during which time he met Peter Ustinov. On demobilisation, Anderson returned to the film industry working as an assistant director on Ustinov's films School for Secrets (1946) and Vice Versa (1947). He was also an assistant director on Fame is the Spur (1947), One Night with You (1947) and Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill (1948).


Anderson and Ustinov then wrote and directed a feature together, Private Angelo (1949).

Anderson made his solo directorial debut with a B film, Waterfront (1950) with Robert Newton.[2] The Telegraph critic announced "I can only burn my boats and prophesy that young Michael Anderson is possibly the most promising discovery since Carol Reed and David Lean."[3]

Aderson followed his first at bat with some more B movies: Hell Is Sold Out (1951); Night Was Our Friend (1952) and Dial 17 (1952).

Associated British Picture Corporation

Anderson then signed a contract with Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC) for whom he wound up making five films.[4] The first was a comedy, Will Any Gentleman...? (1953). It was followed by The House of the Arrow (1953).

The third was the war film The Dam Busters (1955), starring Richard Todd.[5] It was the most popular movie at the British box office in 1955.[6]

Anderson followed this with the first cinema adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 (1956), co-financed by American interests. It was a commercial failure, despite shooting a "happier" ending for the United States release.[7]

Around the World in 80 Days

Anderson was then called in to direct Around the World in 80 Days (1956), after original director John Farrow had a falling out with producer Mike Todd.[8][9] Todd reportedly hired him on the strength of The Dam Busters and the recommendation of Noël Coward.[10]

The film was a huge hit and Anderson was nominated for an Academy Award (the film won Best Picture)[11] and a Golden Globe for his direction. Todd signed Anderson to a two-picture contract[12] but Todd died in a plane crash in 1958.

Anderson was reunited with Richard Todd for another war film Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst (1957) for producer Herbert Wilcox but it was not as popular as The Dam Busters.[13]

He made a third film with Richard Todd, a thriller, Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958); this was his fifth and last movie for Associated British.[14]

International director

In Ireland he made a thriller about the IRA with James Cagney, Shake Hands with the Devil (1959). It was made for Pennebaker, the company of Marlon Brando and provided an early role to Richard Harris.[15]

Anderson then took over a project at MGM originally planned as an Alfred Hitchcock project, The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959), with Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston. Anderson later recalled in 1986, "The magic I remember most is walking on to stage 30 in Culver City at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was the biggest stage in the world and I remember looking at it and thinking I'll be here in a couple of weeks and they'll have built a ship and I'll be directing Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston - it's all going to be mine. It gave me such a feeling of astonishment and it's never quite left me."[3]

MGM also financed Anderson's next film, the melodrama All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960) with Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner.[16] Anderson was reunited with Cooper in The Naked Edge (1961) which turned out to be Cooper's last film.[17]

Harold Pinter wrote The Servant for Anderson but the director was unable to secure finance so he sold it to Joseph Losey.[3]

Anderson made some films for Harold Hecht: Flight from Ashiya (1964), an adventure tale, and Wild and Wonderful (1964), a comedy with Tony Curtis. For MGM and Carlo Ponti he directed the war time thriller Operation Crossbow (1965).

Anderson made a spy thriller The Quiller Memorandum (1966). He was meant to direct Eye of the Devil but fell ill. For MGM he directed the film The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), stepping in for Anthony Asquith at the last moment; the film was a flop.

He was meant to direct the big screen adaptation of James Clavell's Tai Pan starring Patrick McGoohan but the film was not made due to high costs.[18][19]


Anderson went for a few years without making a film before returning with Pope Joan (1972) and The Devil's Impostor (1972). For George Pal he made Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975) then did Conduct Unbecoming (1975).

Logan's Run (1976), about a futuristic society where humanity is enslaved and controlled by a computer that forbids anyone to live past the age of 30, was an expensive box-office success, earning $50 million worldwide and boosting sales for its distributor, Metro Goldwyn Mayer.[20] Anderson then directed Orca (1977) and Dominique (1978) and Murder by Phone (1979).

Later work

In 1981, Anderson moved to Canada, where his then-wife was from, and became a Canadian citizen.[3] "It's the best move I ever made," he said in 1986. "There's so much talent, it's exciting, clean, young, fresh and it's been very good to me."[3]

His later work was mostly made-for-television miniseries, including The Martian Chronicles (1980), Sword of Gideon (1986), Young Catherine (1991), The Sea Wolf (1993), Rugged Gold (1994), Captain's Courageous (1996) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997).

His feature work in Canada included, Murder by Phone (1982), the New Zealand film, Second Time Lucky (1984), Separate Vacations (1986), Summer of the Monkeys (1998), and Millennium (1989) and The Grand Defiance (1993). He directed Bottega dell'orefice (The Jeweler's Shop, 1988), based on the 1960 play written by Karol Wojtyła, who, by the time the film was made, had become Pope John Paul II. In 1998, he said "I honestly feel like a teenager," and had no intention of retiring.[21] Despite this statement, his last film credit before his retirement would end up being The New Adventures of Pinocchio (1999).

In 2012, Michael Anderson received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of Canada. At the time of his death, Anderson was the oldest living nominee for an Academy Award for Best Director, and the only surviving director whose film won a Best Picture award in the 1950s.

Personal life

He was married three times:

  1. Betty Jordan (1923–2008) married in 1939; five children
  2. Vera Carlisle (1935–) married in 1969; one child
  3. Actress Adrienne Ellis (1944–); two stepchildren; stepfather of actress Laurie Holden (The X-Files, Silent Hill, The Mist, The Walking Dead) and Christopher Holden.

His son Michael Anderson Jr., is an actor who appeared in Logan's Run and The Martian Chronicles; another son, David Anderson, is a film producer.

Anderson died on 25 April 2018 at the age of 98, from heart disease.[22]



  1. "Michael Anderson, Director of 'Logan's Run' and 'Around the World in 80 Days,' Dies at 98". The Hollywood Reporter.
  2. "George Hart reviews new films". The Sun (13, 364) (LATE FINAL EXTRA ed.). Sydney. 8 December 1952. p. 16. Retrieved 3 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  3. JOHN, HASLETT C. "Veteran Film Director Finds New Role in Toronto." The Globe and Mail, Nov 28, 1986
  4. "The Robert Clark Account: Films released in Britain by Associated British Pictures, British Lion, MGM, and Warner Bros., 1946‐1957" by Vincent Porter, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television Vol. 20, Iss. 4, 2000
  5. By, S. W. (1955, Jun 19). SCANNING THE CURRENT BRITISH SCREEN SCENE. New York Times (1923Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/113293750
  6. "R.A.F. DAM BUSTERS OF 1943". The Age (30, 935). Victoria, Australia. 26 June 1954. p. 16. Retrieved 3 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  7. By STEPHEN, W. L. (1956, Mar 18). NOTED ON THE BRITISH FILM SCENE. New York Times (1923Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/113538301
  8. By THOMAS M PRYORSpecial to The New,York Times. "METRO WILL FILM 'ANNA CHRISTINE'." New York Times (1923Current file), Aug 18, 1955, pp. 17.
  9. "DAVID NIVEN'S OWN STORY". The Australian Women's Weekly. 39 (16). 15 September 1971. p. 15. Retrieved 3 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  10. By STEPHEN W. "OBSERVATIONS ON THE BRITISH SCREEN SCENE." New York Times (1923Current file), Sep 25, 1955, pp. 1.
  11. "Michael Anderson obituary". The Times. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  12. MOVIELAND EVENTS. (1955, Sep 19). Los Angeles Times (1923Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/166848244
  13. Schallert, E. (1957, Jan 05). King Vidor preparing Tolstoy story; Michael Anderson guides Todd. Los Angeles Times (1923Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/167010080
  14. Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference. Oxford University Press. pp. 82–85. ISBN 9780198159346.
  15. By Thomas M. Pryor, Special to The New York Times. (1958, Jun 03). BRITON TO DIRECT FILM ON IRELAND. New York Times (1923Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/114582332
  16. Scott, J. L. (1959, Nov 01). Natalie and bob break their pact. Los Angeles Times (1923Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/167592884
  17. By, S. W. (1960, Dec 04). FILM PANORAMA ALONG THE THAMES. New York Times (1923Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/115111842
  18. Martin, B. (1967, Feb 15). Anderson to direct 'tai-pan'. Los Angeles Times (1923Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/155675238
  19. Martin, B. (1968, Jul 03). 'Tai-pan' role for McGoohan. Los Angeles Times (1923Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/155987473
  20. "LOGAN'S RUN". The Australian Women's Weekly. 44 (25). 24 November 1976. p. 50. Retrieved 3 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  21. Stories by MARC HORTON Journal Staff Writer. "Anderson a Real Film Veteran; although He's Closing in on 80, Filmmaker Isn't Even Thinking of Retiring; ANDERSON ON FILM." Edmonton Journal, Oct 09, 1998, pp. E2.
  22. "'Logan's Run,' 'Dam Busters' director Michael Anderson dead at 98". Associated Press. 29 April 2018.
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