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Charles Crichton

Charles Crichton

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).
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