Oscar Directors: Anderson, Michael–Background, Career, Filmography, Awards (Cum Advantage, Emmy)

Research in Progress: October 2, 2021

Michael Anderson Career Summation

Occupational Inheritance: Yes; Parents actors; great aunt, actress; his sons would become actor and producer, respectively

Social Class: Middle

Race/Ethnicity: NA

Nationality: UK

Formal Education:

Training: Actor; assistant director on Ustinov’s films School for Secrets, 1946; also co-directed with Ustinov

First Film: Solo directorial debut with B film, Waterfront, 1950; aged 30

Breakthrough: The Dam Busters, 1955, aged 45. Starring Richard Todd, it became  most popular movie at the British box office that year.

First Oscar Nomination: Around the World in 80 Days, 1956; aged 36 (he replaced John Farrow, who was fired by Todd)

Gap First Film and First Nom: 6 years

Other Nominations:

Oscar Awards: DGA Life Achievement Award

Nominations Span: No (only 1 nom)

Genre (specialties): B movies

Collaborators: Assistant to Peter Ustinov; also co-directed with him; 3 films with actor Richard Todd; 2 with Cooper (including Cooper’s last)

Last Film: 1999, aged 79


Career Output: about 30

Career Span: 1949-1999; 50 years

Retirement (Gap between Last Film and Death): 19 years



Death: 98

Michael Joseph Anderson (January 30, 1920–April 25, 2018), the British director, is best known for the World War II film The Dam Busters (1955), the Oscar winning spectacle Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and the dystopian sci-fi film Logan’s Run (1976).

He was born in London 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, one of first American Shakespearean actresses; Mary Anderson Theatre in Louisville was dedicated to her.

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 British Army’s Royal Signals Corps, he met Peter Ustinov and subsequently assisted him on two films.

Career Beginnings: Actor

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.

Moving Up the Ranks

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 demobilization, 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 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 feature together, Private Angelo (1949).

Anderson made his solo directorial debut in a B film, Waterfront (1950) with Robert Newton.  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.”

Director of B-Movies

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

Anderson then signed contract with Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC) for whom he made 5 films. The first was a comedy, Will Any Gentleman…? (1953). It was followed by The House of the Arrow (1953).

The Dam Busters

The third was the war film The Dam Busters (1955), starring Richard Todd, which became the most popular movie at the British box office that year.

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.

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

The film was huge hit and Anderson was nominated for Oscar (the film won Best Picture) and a Golden Globe for his direction. Todd signed Anderson to a two-picture contract, 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.

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

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 early role to Richard Harris.

Anderson then took over a project at MGM originally planned as an Hitchcock project, The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959), with Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston. Anderson 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.”

MGM also financed Anderson’s next film, the melodrama “All the Fine Young Cannibals” (1960) with Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner.

Anderson was reunited with Cooper in The Naked Edge (1961) which turned out to be Cooper’s last film.

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

Anderson made 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 spy thriller The Quiller Memorandum (1966), starring George Segal and Alec Guinness. He was meant to direct Eye of the Devil but fell ill.

For MGM he directed “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.

Anderson returned to directing 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 imprisoned in a death trap sealed dome controlled by a computer, was an expensive box-office success, earning $50 million worldwide and boosting sales for its distributor, Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Anderson then directed Orca (1977) and Dominique (1978).

In 1981, Anderson moved to Canada, where his then-wife was from, and became a Canadian citizen. “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.”

Mostly made-for-TV 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. Despite this statement, his last film credit before retirement would be The New Adventures of Pinocchio (1999).

In 2012, Anderson received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of Canada (DGA).

At the time of his death, Anderson was the oldest living Oscar nominee, and the only surviving director whose film won a Best Picture award in the 1950s.

He was married three times: Betty Jordan (1923–2008) married in 1939; five children
Vera Carlisle (1935–) married in 1969; one child; 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., appeared in Logan’s Run and The Martian Chronicles; another son, David Anderson, is producer.

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


Private Angelo (1949)

1950s: 12

Waterfront Women (1950)
Hell Is Sold Out (1951)
Night Was Our Friend (1951)
Will Any Gentleman…? (1953)
The House of the Arrow (1953)
The Dam Busters (1955)
1984 (1956)
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst (1957)
Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958)
Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)
The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959)

1960s: 7

All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960)
The Naked Edge (1961)
Flight from Ashiya (1964)
Wild and Wonderful (1964)
Operation Crossbow (1965)
The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968)

1970s: 6

Pope Joan (1972)
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)
Conduct Unbecoming (1975)
Logan’s Run (1976)
Orca (1977)
Nessie (1977) was to be a co-production between Hammer Films and Toho Company Ltd. The project was cancelled during pre-production after promotional material was printed and published in trade magazines.
Dominique (1979)

1980s: 7

The Martian Chronicles (1980) (TV)
Murder by Phone (1982)
Second Time Lucky (1984)
Separate Vacations (1986)
Sword of Gideon (1986) (TV)
The Jeweller’s Shop (1989)
Millennium (1989)
Young Catherine (1991) (TV)
The Sea Wolf (1993) (TV)
Rugged Gold (1994) (TV)
Captains Courageous (1996) (TV)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997) (TV)
Summer of the Monkeys (1998)
The New Adventures of Pinocchio (1999)