Director Michael Anderson, who was Oscar-nominated for his role in bringing to life the epic film Around The World in 80 Days and later was behind the cameras for the sci-fi classic Logan’s Run, has died. He was 98 and passed away at his home in Canada of heart disease.
Anderson had a long film career, directing such war movies as The Dam Busters (which the British Film Institute named one of the best British films of the 20th century), The Yangtse Incident, Operation Crossbow, and such staples as The Wreck of the Mary Deare, The Quiller Memorandum, Chase a Crooked Shadow, and The Shoes of the Fisherman, the latter one of the favorite films of Pope John Paul II, with whom Anderson collaborated in adapting the Pope-penned The Jeweller’s Shop, a three-act play written in the 1960s, to film.
But the defining film of his career was Around the World In 80 Days, a three-hour film based on the Jules Verne adventure novel. The film was as much about logistics as it was the narrative, setting records for camera set-ups, sets, costumes, participants and locations.
The storyline has Phileas Fogg (David Niven) and his valet, Passepartout (Cantinflas), as they try to win a £20,000 bet by circling the globe in record time. It was a star-show of the first order in tht era, featuring cameos from Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, John Gielgud, Edward R. Murrow, Noel Coward, Charles Boyer, Ronald Colman, Robert Newton, Marlene Dietrich, Buster Keaton, Victor McLaglen and Red Skelton.
The film was named Best Picture and won a total of five Academy Awards. Anderson lost the Best Director nod to George Stevens, who helmed Giant. That year Anderson also received nominations from the Directors Guild of America and the Golden Globes. His overall career spanned 70 years, over 35 films, and included seven Royal Command Performances for the British monarchy. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Directors Guild of Canada in 2012.
Born in 1920 into a theatrical family, Anderson began working in the industry as an actor during the 1930s. By 1938, he had graduated to working behind the camera as an assistant director. During World War II, while serving in the Royal Signals Corps, he met Peter Ustinov and subsequently assisted him on two films.
He then co-wrote and co-directed Private Angelo with Ustinov in 1949, launching his career as a film director. Anderson broke out with the 1955 epic war drama The Dam Busters, starring Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave, which was the number one film at the British box office that year.
He also directed miniseries made for television including the critically acclaimed Sword of Gideon and Young Catherine starring Vanessa Redgrave. He spoke four languages fluently including English, French, Italian and German, a reflection of his multicultural life spending significant periods of his life in Europe, the US, and, in his later years, in Canada.
Anderson is survived by his third wife, actress Adrianne Ellis; his son, Michael Anderson Jr.; stepchildren Christopher Anderson and Laurie Holden, the latter appearing on TV shows The X-Files, The Shield and The Walking Dead.
A private memorial service for family and friends will be held at his home on the Sunshine Coast of Canada over the summer. The family requests that those wishing to commemorate Anderson’s life do so by making a donation to the Famous People Players in Toronto, a non-profit black light theater company that tours worldwide and is dedicated to employing people with intellectual and physical disabilities.
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