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`Battle of the Bulge' director Annakin dies at 94

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*`Battle of the Bulge' director Annakin dies at 94*




*Battle of the Bulge' director Annakin dies at 94*


The Associated Press

‎Apr 22, 2009‎




*LOS ANGELES (AP) ? Ken Annakin, the British-born director whose credits included the World War II epics "Battle of the Bulge" and "The Longest Day" and the family classic "Swiss Family Robinson," has died. He was 94.*



Annakin died Wednesday night at his Beverly Hills home, said his daughter, Deborah Peters. His health had been failing since he had a heart attack and stroke within a day of each other in February, she said.


Before he was stricken, Annakin had been in good health and always talked about making more movies, even though he had not directed since the early 1990s, his daughter said.


"He was absolutely fine, other than old age," Peters said. "He was walking and mobile, chatting and working, still trying to get films made. I don't think anybody like that ever really stops."


Annakin dabbled in many genres, from action comedies and family fare to crime drama and swashbuckling romance. He was best-known for his war sagas, 1965's "Battle of the Bulge" with Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Robert Shaw and Telly Savalas and 1962's "The Longest Day," which he co-directed with Andrew Marton and Bernhard Wicki.


Adapted from Cornelius Ryan's D-Day best-seller, "The Longest Day" featured an all-star cast led by Fonda, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, Sean Connery and Peter Lawford.


Annakin's other films include "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines," whose screenplay earned him an Academy Award nomination, and the similarly titled action comedy "Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies." He also directed "Call of the Wild," a 1972 adaptation of Jack London's adventure starring Charlton Heston; the 1957 crime thriller "Across the Bridge" with Steiger; and the 1982 musical romance "The Pirate Movie" with Kristy McNichol.


Probably his most-beloved film was 1960's "Swiss Family Robinson," one of a series of family adventures Annakin made for Walt Disney Pictures starting in the 1950s. The film starred John Mills and Dorothy McGuire as parents of a family battling pirates and struggling to survive after they are shipwrecked on an island.


"Ken was an important part of the Disney legacy and made several memorable films for my Uncle Walt," said Roy Disney. "`Swiss Family Robinson' remains one of the greatest family adventure films of all time, and a favorite for generations of moviegoers."


Co-star James MacArthur recalled screening "Swiss Family Robinson" with Annakin for a family crowd at a film festival last year.


"We had 900 kids in the program. It was a read-the-book, see-the-film thing. Ken and I came down and we were here with 900 kids having the time of their lives watching `Swiss Family,'" said MacArthur, who also worked with Annakin in "Battle of the Bulge" and an earlier Disney flick, "Third Man on the Mountain."


MacArthur, who went on to co-star as detective Danny "Book 'em, Danno" Williams in TV's "Hawaii Five-O," said he remained good friends with Annakin and had been visiting the director every week or two since he was stricken. Annakin and his wife were godparents for MacArthur's daughter.


"He was a wonderful storyteller and one of those people you just, the minute you get to know him, you like him. He had that wonderful outgoing personality, but he was very much the general on the set, as the director has to be," MacArthur said.


Born Aug. 10, 1914, in Beverley, Yorkshire, England, Annakin traveled in his youth to Australia, New Zealand and the United States, then sold insurance, cars and advertising back in England.


During World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force as a flight mechanic but was injured during the London Blitz. He worked as a camera operator for a company making RAF training films and documentaries, later directing war propaganda films himself.


Annakin got his start as a feature filmmaker with 1947's "Holiday Camp," about the working-class Huggett family, whom he also featured in three other films over the next few years.


In 2002, Annakin was honored with the Order of the British Empire.


Besides his daughter, Deborah, Annakin is survived by his wife, Pauline, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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The World War II epics "Battle of the Bulge" and "The Longest Day" are 2 of my favorite classic 60's - 70's war movies. The other is "Patton"


The "Battle of the Bulge" documentary on the History Channel is also neat. Did Patton actually ordered a prayer for clear skys during the battle or is it myth? Strange the documentary never mentioned it.

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I met him a few years ago at a screening of a restored 70mm print of THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES at Hollywood's Egyptian Theater.


While I didn't, and don't, think the film works at all as either drama or comedy (that its screenplay was nominated for an Oscar is, frankly, unfathomable), it did an extraordinary job of physically establishing the time, place and milieu of its setting. For that, Annakin deserves great praise), it was quite spectacular, particularly in the large-frame format which rendered the image remarkably sharp and textured, at times appearing almost three-dimensional.


As for THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE, it's one of those films that keeps you watching, even as you realize, early-on, that it's not very good, filled as it is with stock, one-dimensional characters who pontificate on this or that, and do, or say, little else. It's best characterized as one of those how-we-won-the-war movies that concerns itself with battle tactics and chronology rather than characters or the effects those battles have on people (by contrast, Francis Coppola's early script drafts of PATTON, BULGE's rough contemporary, were much the same way; when the producers brought in veteran writer Edmund H. North, who found the real heart and soul of the man who was supposed to be the film's subject, the screenplay grew wings, and the film made from that script became, justifiably, one of the great epics and character studies ever made by Hollywood).


Annakin, who was a friend of a friend, seemed a very nice man, and certainly dedicated to his craft. Judging by the obituaries just this week, one's mid-nineties seem to be a real minefield, and one that's probably best avoided.

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You're lucky to have met him, CineSage.


Also, I don't know if you can clear this up - is it just an urban legend that George Lucas borrowed his last name when naming his SW character, Anakin Skywalker? Or is it really true?

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Well, my friend, Eric, is much luckier, then, for having had Annakin as a pretty good friend for several years.


As for "Anakin Skywalker," I really have no inside information, but the name is fairly uncommon, and George Lucas does have a substantial knowledge of film history, so draw your own conclusions...

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*Directed by Ken Annakin (who directed all of the Huggett films)*







The Huggetts Abroad is the last and most contrived of Britain's "Huggetts" film series. The titular family members, first introduced in the 1947 film Holiday Camp, are played by Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, Susan Shaw and Petula Clark (the same). Mr. Huggett feels he's in a rut, so he quits his jobs and packs himself and his family off to Africa. In quick order, the innocents abroad (a) become involved with diamond smugglers and (B) wind up in jail. When his job becomes available again, the chastened Mr. Huggett returns to his own back yard.


Four writers were required to concoct this tired British Ma and Pa Kettle equivalent.



Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

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*Although director Ken Annakin was not an aviator, he had always been interested in aviation from his early years when pioneering aviator Sir Alan Cobham had given him a first flight in a biplane. Along with co-writer Jack Davies, Annakin had been working on an adventure film about transatlantic flights, when the producer's bankruptcy aborted the production. Fresh from his role as director of the British exterior segments in The Longest Day (1962), Annakin pitched the idea of recreating an actual event from the dawn of aviation to Darryl F. Zanuck, his producer on the wartime opus.*



*Zanuck agreed to bankroll an "epic" that would be faithful to the era, even deciding upon the name Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. He had come up with the name after Elmo Williams, managing director of 20th Century Fox in Europe told him his wife had written an opening lyric*


*Those magnificent men in their flying machines,*

*They go up diddley up-up, they go down diddley down-down!*


*for a song that Annakin complained would eventually "seal the fate of the movie". However, after being put to music by composer Ron Goodwin, the Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines song would become the "irresistible" jingle-style theme music for the film and go on to have a "life of its own", even released in singles and on the soundtrack record.*






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