Star Archive

Anthony Asquith (1902 - 1968)

The British film industry offered very few chances to working class people, particularly if they wanted to be directors. The higher up the social ladder you were, the better your opportunities. Few directors were as posh as Anthony Asquith. 

Daddy was Herbert Asquith, prominent Liberal politician and Prime Minister (1908-1916). Shortly after leaving Oxford University Asquith became a founder member of the Film Society (with, amongst others, H.G. Wells and G.B. Shaw). He went to America for a short while to study film making, and when he came back to Britain his connections soon got him work in the film industry. He was a director by the age of twenty five.

His first film, Shooting Stars, which he co-directed with A.V. Bramble, is one of the few classic silent films produced in this country, but at the time it was seen as being too arty for most audiences. The same criticism was levelled at his next few films in which he grappled with the innovation of sound.

The thirties were a difficult period for Asquith. He moved from company to company (British Instructional Films, British International Pictures, Gaumont-British, London Films). His reputation for artiness held him back despite the solid entertainment value of his films and by Brown on Resolution he was reduced to second unit work. He only really got going again when, thanks to his connections with Shaw, he was allowed to co-direct Pygmalion with its star Leslie Howard.

He followed this smash with another, French Without Tears. In this film he started his long association with writer Terence Rattigan. This association would lead to Asquith's work being accused of being too theatrical. Certainly, from this point his style would favour performance over action.

Asquith got wonderful performances from the ensemble casts of Quiet Wedding, The Winslow Boy and The Importance of Being Earnest, and memorable star performances from Michael Redgrave in The Browning Version and David Niven in Carrington VC. The critics were frequently sniffy; not only were these films theatrical but they were out of touch with the fad for realism. Of course, audiences had no such objections.

When he died, many people thought his career had been disappointing. However, he made a handful of classics that have stood the test of time.

Photo of Anthony AsquithStill from UncensoredAnthony Asquith on the set of The Way to the StarsPhoto from The Woman in QuestionPressbook for The Woman in QuestionPhoto from Carrington VC

Filmography (features only)

1927 Shooting Stars (co)
1928 Underground
1928 The Runaway Princess
1930 A Cottage on Dartmoor
1931 Tell England (co)
1932 Dance Pretty Lady
1933 The Lucky Number
1934 Unfinished Symphony
1935 Moscow Nights
1935 Brown on Resolution (co)
1938 Pygmalion (co)
1939 French Without Tears
1940 Freedom Radio
1940 Channel Incident
1940 Quiet Wedding
1941 Cottage to Let
1942 Uncensored
1943 The Demi-Paradise
1943 We Dive at Dawn
1944 Fanny by Gaslight
1945 The Way to the Stars
1946 While the Sun Shines
1948 The Winslow Boy
1950 The Woman in Question
1951 The Browning Version
1952 The Importance of Being Earnest
1953 The Net
1953 The Final Test
1954 The Young Lovers
1954 Carrington VC
1955 On Such a Night
1958 Orders to Kill
1959 Libel
1959 The Doctor's Dilemma
1960 The Millionairess
1961 Two Living, One Dead
1962 Guns of Darkness
1963 The VIPs
1964 The Yellow Rolls-Royce

 Anthony Asquith at Amazon UK

 Anthony Asquith at Amazon US