Ken Annakin: the centenary of a great British director

From wartime epics to Disney adventures, Ken Annakin’s 50-year career as director revealed his fascination with ‘human beings and their endless variations of behaviour in different settings’. To mark the centenary of his birth, here are some visual highlights from some of his very best films.

Following an injury during his time as an RAF flight mechanic, Annakin was transferred to the RAF Film Unit. Between 1941 and 1946, he worked on documentaries for the Ministry of Information, the British Council and the Armed Service. We of the West Riding (1945) gave Annakin an opportunity to draw upon his roots, in this day in the life of a typical Yorkshire family

Following an injury during his time as an RAF flight mechanic, Annakin was transferred to the RAF Film Unit. Between 1941 and 1946, he worked on documentaries for the Ministry of Information, the British Council and the Armed Service. We of the West Riding (1945) gave Annakin an opportunity to draw upon his roots, in this day in the life of a typical Yorkshire family

Hazel Court and Dennis Price in Holiday Camp (1947). This was Annakin’s feature debut. Set in a Butlin’s resort on the Yorkshire coast, and showing sympathetic working-class characters, it was a huge success and spawned the Huggett series based on the central characters Joe and Ethel (‘Pa’ and ‘Ma’) Huggett, played by Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison

Hazel Court and Dennis Price in Holiday Camp (1947). This was Annakin’s feature debut. Set in a Butlin’s resort on the Yorkshire coast, and showing sympathetic working-class characters, it was a huge success and spawned the Huggett series based on the central characters Joe and Ethel (‘Pa’ and ‘Ma’) Huggett, played by Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison

A country squire (Cecil Parker) is disturbed by his demure wife’s (Linden Travers) writing of erotic poetry in ‘The Colonel’s Lady’, Annakin’s segment of the portmanteau film Quartet (1948), based on stories by Somerset Maugham

A country squire (Cecil Parker) is disturbed by his demure wife’s (Linden Travers) writing of erotic poetry in ‘The Colonel’s Lady’, Annakin’s segment of the portmanteau film Quartet (1948), based on stories by Somerset Maugham

Miranda (1948). Glynis Johns’ flirtatious mermaid tries to lure Griffith Jones away from wife Googie Withers in this charming fantasy comedy

Miranda (1948). Glynis Johns’ flirtatious mermaid tries to lure Griffith Jones away from wife Googie Withers in this charming fantasy comedy

Annakin was frustrated by Peter Lorre’s constant upstaging of William Hartnell in the crime drama, Double Confession (1950)

Annakin was frustrated by Peter Lorre’s constant upstaging of William Hartnell in the crime drama, Double Confession (1950)

The Planter’s Wife (1952). Jack Hawkins and Claudette Colbert star in this Empire drama set in 1950s Malaya

The Planter’s Wife (1952). Jack Hawkins and Claudette Colbert star in this Empire drama set in 1950s Malaya

In Value for Money (1955), nightclub singer Diana Dors meets a newly-rich young man from Yorkshire and decides to have some fun with his money

In Value for Money (1955), nightclub singer Diana Dors meets a newly-rich young man from Yorkshire and decides to have some fun with his money

Corrupt financier Rod Steiger flees to Mexico in this taut adaptation of Graham Greene’s story. Across the Bridge was Ken Annakin’s favourite of his films and is being screened at BFI Southbank on 17 August to mark the director’s centenary

Corrupt financier Rod Steiger flees to Mexico in this taut adaptation of Graham Greene’s story. Across the Bridge was Ken Annakin’s favourite of his films and is being screened at BFI Southbank on 17 August to mark the director’s centenary

In the 1950s and early 60s, Annakin made a number of films for Disney’s British branch, including The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952), The Sword and the Rose (1953) and Third Man on the Mountain (1959). The last of these was the fabulously entertaining castaway adventure Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

In the 1950s and early 60s, Annakin made a number of films for Disney’s British branch, including The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952), The Sword and the Rose (1953) and Third Man on the Mountain (1959). The last of these was the fabulously entertaining castaway adventure Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

Annakin (right) during production of The Fast Lady (1962)

Annakin (right) during production of The Fast Lady (1962)

Crooks Anonymous (1962) stars Leslie Philips as a habitual thief trying to go straight in order to marry Julie Christie, in one of her earliest film roles

Crooks Anonymous (1962) stars Leslie Philips as a habitual thief trying to go straight in order to marry Julie Christie, in one of her earliest film roles

Two of Annakin’s most significant films in the 1960s were war epics. The Longest Day (1962) was set around the Normandy landings and featured a star-studded cast including Richard Burton

Two of Annakin’s most significant films in the 1960s were war epics. The Longest Day (1962) was set around the Normandy landings and featured a star-studded cast including Richard Burton

The Longest Day attracted the attention of producer Milton Sperling, who recruited Annakin to direct another wartime blockbuster, Battle of the Bulge (1965), starring Henry Fonda and Robert Shaw

The Longest Day attracted the attention of producer Milton Sperling, who recruited Annakin to direct another wartime blockbuster, Battle of the Bulge (1965), starring Henry Fonda and Robert Shaw

Directed and co-written by Annakin, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) portrays a wacky Edwardian air race from London to Paris. It picked up on Annakin’s long-standing interest in aviation, with the incredible flying machines almost overshadowing the film’s illustrious international cast

Directed and co-written by Annakin, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) portrays a wacky Edwardian air race from London to Paris. It picked up on Annakin’s long-standing interest in aviation, with the incredible flying machines almost overshadowing the film’s illustrious international cast

Ken Annakin’s family generously donated his papers to the BFI National Archive in 2010 and they are available for research from Special Collections.

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