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Alexander Mackendrick posters


September 8, 1912

Birth Sign




One of the most distinguished (if frequently overlooked) directors ever to emerge from the British film industry, Alexander Mackendrick, was in fact born in the US (to Scottish parents), but grew up in his native Scotland, where he studied at the Glasgow School of Art. He started out as a commercial illustrator, and his first film endeavors were in animation (for advertising films) but he soon found himself attracted by live-action, shooting numerous short documentaries and writing screenplays throughout the 1940s. He made his feature debut in 1948 with the Ealing comedy classic Whisky Galore (1949), set in his native Scotland, and more than half his total feature output would be for the studio including such masterpieces as The Man in the White Suit (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955) -- comedies with a rather darker, more satirical edge to them than the rather cosy and parochial British comedy more typical of the era. His first Hollywood film pushed this style to its limit in Sweet Smell of Success (1957), a vicious, no-holds-barred portrait of the world of ruthless New York gossip columnists. read more

Although now acclaimed as one of the great American films, and a career high-point for Mackendrick, stars Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis and cinematographer James Wong Howe, it was a critical and box-office disaster that, sadly, ensured that Mackendrick would never again scale such heights. After just three more films, he was offered an academic job as the Dean of the Film Department of the California Institute of the Arts, which he accepted and held from 1969 until shortly before his death.

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