Charles Crichton
Crichton in 1988
Charles Ainslie Crichton

(1910-08-06)6 August 1910[1][2]
Died14 September 1999(1999-09-14) (aged 89)
South Kensington, London, England
Occupation(s)film director
film editor
Years active1931–1988

Charles Ainslie Crichton[4] (6 August 1910 – 14 September 1999) was an English film director and editor.

Born in Wallasey, Cheshire, he became best known for directing many comedies produced at Ealing Studios and had a 40-year career editing and directing many films and television programmes.[5] For his final film, the acclaimed comedy A Fish Called Wanda (1988), Crichton was nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (along with the film's star John Cleese).

Early life and education

Crichton, one of six children, was born on 6 August 1910 in Wallasey, Cheshire, England.[4][6][7] He was educated at Oundle School in Northamptonshire, followed by New College at the University of Oxford where he read History.[8][9][10]



In 1931, Crichton began his career in the film industry as a film editor.[4] His first credit as editor was Men of Tomorrow (1932).[9] He edited over fifty films, such as Things to Come (1936).[7] Other films he edited included those that were produced by Alexander Korda, such as Cash (1933), The Girl from Maxim's (1933), The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Sanders of the River (1935), Elephant Boy (1937) and The Thief of Bagdad (1940).[6][9] Crichton was paid £8 per week for his editing.[10] In 1940, Crichton began his employment at Ealing Studios.[4] There he edited the film, The Big Blockade (1942).[6] Crichton also served as an associate producer of the film, Nine Men (1943), which he also edited.[9]


Crichton made his directorial debut with For Those in Peril (1944).[6][7][10] In 1945, he directed Painted Boats and co-directed a segment in Dead of Night.[9] Crichton then directed Hue and Cry (1947), a film considered to be the first comedy released by Ealing Studios.[6][10] Crichton later directed Against the Wind (1948) and Dance Hall (1950).[9] Crichton then directed Alec Guinness in The Lavender Hill Mob (1951).[6][7][9][10] This was followed by Hunted (1952), starring Dirk Bogarde.[6][9] Afterwards, Crichton directed The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953).[6][7][9][10] Later films he directed during the 1950s included The Divided Heart (1954), Law and Disorder (1958), and Floods of Fear (1959).[9] He also directed Peter Sellers in The Battle of the Sexes (1959).[10][11]

Crichton was the original director of Birdman of Alcatraz (1962),[12] but he quit after clashing with Burt Lancaster. Crichton was then replaced by John Frankenheimer.[6] Crichton said of the experience: "Had I known that Burt Lancaster was to be de facto producer, I do not think I would have accepted the assignment, as he had a reputation for quarreling with better directors than I. But Harold Hecht, the credited producer, had assured me that there would be no interference from Lancaster. This did not prove to be the case."[13] Crichton was also planning another film project with Sammy Davis, Jr., but it never came to fruition due to the death of a producer involved with it.[4]

The Third Secret (1964) and He Who Rides a Tiger (1965), the last two films Crichton directed during the 1960s, were not successful.[4] The latter film was the last film he directed for 23 years.[7][14][15][16]

Crichton moved to directing television shows, then corporate videos. The latter were through John Cleese's company Video Arts. This led Cleese to propose Crichton returning to the crime comedy film genre.[17] Beginning in 1983, Cleese and Crichton worked together on the story for A Fish Called Wanda. Cleese wrote the screenplay. When the film went into production in 1987, Cleese had to act as stand-by director for insurance reasons since Crichton was 77 years old.[18] Cleese said of working with Crichton as a stand-by director: "That was a subterfuge. I knew the studio would be worried about Charlie's age. I don't know anything about how to direct, but that doesn't stop one-half of the directors. I simply prayed that Charlie would be on the set every morning. He shoots in such a way to convey the essence of every scene. He's economical. He's a dear man who's terrified of showing off. If he says anything shrewd or insightful, he'll apologize for a minute so he won't be considered pompous."[19]

Personal life and death

In 1936, Crichton married Vera Harman-Mills, and together they had two sons, David and Nicholas.[9][10][11] Nicholas became an eminent judge and reformer in UK family law.[20] Crichton married his second wife, Nadine Haze, in 1962, and their marriage lasted until his death.[9]

Following completion of production on A Fish Called Wanda, Crichton retired from the entertainment industry and spent the rest of his life living comfortably, fishing in both Scotland and Wales.[17][21] He died on 14 September 1999 in South Kensington, London, at the age of 89.[4][22]


Feature films

Year Title Director Writer Notes
1944 For Those in Peril Yes No
1945 Dead of Night Yes No Co-Directed with Alberto Cavalcanti, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer
Directed Segment: The Golfer's Story
Painted Boats Yes No
1947 Hue and Cry Yes No
1948 Against the Wind Yes No
Another Shore Yes No
1949 Train of Events Yes No Co-Directed with Sidney Cole and Basil Dearden
Directed Segment: The Composer
1950 Dance Hall Yes No
1951 The Lavender Hill Mob Yes No Nominated – Golden Lion
Nominated – Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film
1952 Hunted Yes No
1953 The Titfield Thunderbolt Yes No
1954 The Love Lottery Yes No
The Divided Heart Yes No
1957 Man in the Sky Yes No
1958 Law and Disorder Yes No
1959 Floods of Fear Yes Yes
The Battle of the Sexes Yes No
1960 The Boy Who Stole a Million Yes Yes
1964 The Third Secret Yes No
1965 He Who Rides a Tiger Yes No
1988 A Fish Called Wanda Yes Story Nominated – Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Film
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated – Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film
Nominated – Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay



  1. ^ "Charles Crichton, Film Director, Dies at 89". The New York Times. 16 September 1999. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Charles Crichton".
  3. ^ "Charles Crichton". People.theiapolis. Retrieved 16 December 2015.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Honan, William (16 September 1999). "Charles Crichton, Film Director, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  5. ^ Kemp, Philip (2000). "Charles Crichton". In Pendergast, Tom; Pendergast, Sara (eds.). International Dictionary of Film and Filmmakers, Edition 4. St. James Press. ISBN 978-1-55862-449-8.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bergan, Ronald (14 September 1999). "Charles Crichton". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Ealing legend dies". The Guardian. 15 September 1999. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  8. ^ "Charles Crichton". The Guardian. 15 September 1999. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Vallance, Tom (15 September 1999). "Obituary: Charles Crichton". The Independent. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h "Charles Crichton: A legend of British film". BBC News. 15 September 1999. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  11. ^ a b Oliver, Myrna (16 September 1999). "Charles Crichton; British Director of Movie Comedies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  12. ^ Scott, Vernon (20 May 1978). "Actor lives in fear of snips". Lodi News-Sentinel. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  13. ^ "Overview for Charles Crichton". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  14. ^ "Charles Crichton". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 16 September 1999. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  15. ^ Gazlay, Kristin (16 September 1999). "Director Charles Crichton dies at 89". The Daily Gazette. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  16. ^ "Comedy film director Charles Crichton, 89". Bangor Daily News. 16 September 1999. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  17. ^ a b "BFI Screenonline: Crichton, Charles (1910–1999) Biography".
  18. ^ Mayer, Geoff (2012). Historical Dictionary of Crime Films. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810879003.
  19. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (26 March 1989). "'Fish Called Wanda' a Crichton Keeper". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  20. ^ Brindle, David (21 December 2018). "Nicholas Crichton obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  21. ^ "BBC News | Entertainment | Charles Crichton: A legend of British film".
  22. ^ "John F. White Sr.,75, considered the dean of..." The Baltimore Sun. 17 September 1999. Retrieved 8 December 2015.