January 2, 2017


Anthony Asquith (1902-1968) b. London, England.

Anthony Asquith

Members of his family and many others were astonished when Anthony Asquith, called ‘Puffin’ by his mother because of his nose, went into the film world. The son of a Liberal Prime Minister who later became the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, Puffin was brought up in No. 10 Downing Street; but, unlike his father, his half-brothers and his sister, Lady Violet Bonham Carter, he was not remotely interested in politics and even less in law. From the family of his mother, Margot, daughter of Sir Charles. Tennant and sister of Lord Glenconner, he got his restless energy, his abundant generosity – even when he had no money – his bubbling wit hid his intense interest in the arts. His love of music, evident when he was two years old, led to his decision to be a composer; it was a shattering blow, when, after all honest appraisal of his own talent, he realised he would have to seek a different career.

At Oxford he diverted himself by going to the cinema and his quick mind showed him the possibility of applying art much more effectively to the screen. After taking his degree in Classics he left for Hollywood where he stayed with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Snr., with Charlie Chaplin as a neighbour, and spent a great deal of time watching films being made by Ernst Lubitsch and other famous directors. On his return he applied hopefully for a job at a film studio and was taken on as tea boy and general help. His father regarded the whole thing as a joke. Within six months he supplied his own story, wrote the shooting script and assisted in the direction of the film. The studio magnates were so pleased with his progress that they raised his salary to �2 a week. In the forty years that followed, he made many memorable films – Shaw’s Pygmalion (1938), The Doctor’s Dilemma (1958) and The Millionairess (1960); almost all the Terence Rattigan films including The Winslow Boy (1948), The Browning Version (1950), The V.I.P.’s (1963) and The Yellow Rolls Royce (1964), and had as his stars the screen’s greatest actors and actresses – Laurence Olivier, Edith Evans, Rex Harrison, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Shirley MacLaine, Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, Peter Sellers, Leslie Caron, David Niven, Dirk Bogarde … it’s a formidably long list.

He rarely ate anything; he drank heavily for a time but won through after undergoing courageously a long, drastic and most unpleasant cure. Puffin Asquith, aesthete, aristocrat, Prime Minister’s son, original film maker and friend of the famous died, after a wretched illness, in February 1968.

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