Lindsay Gordon Anderson in Bangalore, South India, 17 April 1923.
Attended Cheltenham College and Wadham College, Oxford.
Member of Army Intelligence Corps during World War II.
magazine, 1947–52; helped organize first Free Cinema program,
National Film Theatre, 1956; directed first feature,
This Sporting Life
, 1963; associate artistic director, Royal Court Theatre, 1971–75;
also directed TV plays and commercials.
Oscar for Best Short Subject, for
, 1955; Palme d'Or, Cannes Festival, for
If. . .
30 August 1994, of a heart attack while vacationing in the Dordogne
region of France.
Meet the Pioneers (+ sc, co-ed, narration)
Idlers That Work (+ sc, narration)
Three Installations (+ sc, narration); Trunk Conveyor (+ sc,narration); Wakefield Express (+ sc)
Thursday's Children (co-d, + co-sc); O Dreamland (+ sc)
Green and Pleasant Land (+ sc); Henry (+ sc, role); The Children Upstairs (+ sc); A Hundred Thousand Children (+ sc); £20 a Ton (+ sc); Energy First (+ sc); Foot and Mouth (+ sc, narration)
Every Day except Christmas (+ sc)
This Sporting Life
The White Bus ; Raz, dwa, trzy ( The Singing Lesson ) (+ sc)
If. . . (+ pr)
O Lucky Man! (+ co-pr)
Wish You Were There ( Foreign Skies )
The Whales of August
Is That All There Is? (+ sc, role)
Out of Season (Brendon) (narrator)
The Pleasure Garden (Broughton) (pr, role)
Together (Mazzetti) (supervising ed)
March to Aldermaston (supervising ed)
Let My People Go (Krish) (sponsor)
The Story of Private Pooley (Alsen) (English-language version of Der Schwur des Soldaten Pooley ) (narrator)
The Threatening Sky (Ivens) (English-language version of Le Ciel, la terre ) (narrator)
Mucednici Iásky ( Martyrs of Love ) (Nemec) (role)
About "The White Bus" (Fletcher) (role as himself)
Abel Gance—The Charm of Dynamite (Brownlow) (for TV) (narrator); Inadmissable Evidence (Page) (role)
The Parachute (Page) (for TV) (role)
Hetty King—Performer (Robinson) (narrator)
A Mirror from India (Sarabhai) (narrator)
Chariots of Fire (Hudson) (role as schoolmaster)
Prisoner of Honor (for TV) (role as war minister)
Blame It on the Bellboy (role as Mr. Marshall)
Lucky Man (role as himself)
Making a Film: The Story of "Secret People, " London, 1952.
If. . . : A Film by Lindsay Anderson , with David Sherwin, New York, 1969.
O Lucky Man! , with David Sherwin, New York, 1973.
"Angles of Approach," in Sequence (London), Winter 1947.
"The Need for Competence," in Sequence (London), Spring 1948.
"What Goes On," in Sequence (London), Summer 1948.
"Creative Elements," in Sequence (London), Autumn 1948.
"British Cinema: The Descending Spiral," in Sequence (London), Spring 1949.
"The Film Front," in Sequence (London), Summer 1949.
"Films of Alfred Hitchcock," in Sequence (London), Autumn 1949.
"Notes at Cannes," in Sequence (London), New Year issue 1950.
"The Director's Cinema?," in Sequence (London), Autumn 1950.
"Retrospective Review: Wagonmaster and Two Flags West ," in Sight and Sound (London), December 1950.
"Goldwyn at Claridges," in Sequence (London), New Year issue 1951.
"John Ford," in Films in Review (New York), February 1951.
"Minnelli, Kelly and An American in Paris ," in Sequence (London), New Year issue 1952.
"As the Critics Like It: Some Personal Choices," in Sight and Sound (London), October/December 1952.
"Only Connect: Some Aspects of the Work of Humphrey Jennings," in Sight and Sound (London), April/June 1953; reprinted in The Documentary Tradition , edited by Lewis Jacobs, New York, 1974.
"Encounter with Prévert," in Sight and Sound (London), July/September 1953.
"French Critical Writing," in Sight and Sound (London), October/December 1954.
"Stand Up! Stand Up!," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1956.
"Notes from Sherwood," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1956.
"Ten Feet Tall," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1957.
"The Critical Issue: A Discussion between Paul Rotha, Basil Wright, Lindsay Anderson, Penelope Houston," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1957.
"Two Inches off the Ground," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1957.
"Get out and Push!," in Declaration , edited by Tom Maschler, London, 1958.
"Sport, Life, and Art," in Films and Filming (London), February 1963.
"An Interview with Lindsay Anderson," with Peter Cowie, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1964.
"The Film Maker and the Audience," in Film Makers on Film Making , edited by Harry Geduld, Bloomington, Indiana, 1967.
Interview, in Documentary Explorations: 15 Interviews with Filmmakers , by G. Roy Levin, New York, 1971.
"Stripping the Veils Away," an interview with David Robinson, in the Times (London), 21 April 1973.
"From Theater to Film . . . Lindsay Anderson," an interview with M. Carducci, in Millimeter (New York), January 1975.
"Revolution Is the Opium of the Intellectuals," an interview with E. Rampell, in Cineaste (New York), vol. 12, no. 4, 1983.
"Lindsay Anderson, Unfashionable Humanist, in Conversation," an interview with Gerald Pratley, in Cinema Canada (Montreal), June 1985.
Interview in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), October 1987.
Interview with John Russell Taylor, in Films and Filming (London), March 1988.
Interview with S. Stewart and L. Friedman, in Film Criticism , vol. 16, no. 1, 1991/92.
Manvell, Roger, New Cinema in Britain , New York, 1969.
Sussex, Elizabeth, Lindsay Anderson , New York, 1969.
Barsam, Richard, Nonfiction Film , New York, 1973.
Silet, Charles L. P., Lindsay Anderson: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1979.
Graham, Allison, Lindsay Anderson , Boston, 1981.
Hedling, Erik, Lindsay Anderson och filmens estetik , Lund, Sweden, 1992.
Sherwin, David, Going Mad in Hollywood: And Life with Lindsay Anderson , London, 1996.
Lambert, Gavin, Mainly about Lindsay Anderson , New York, 2000.
Berger, John, "Look at Britain!," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1957.
Milne, Tom, " This Sporting Life ," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1962.
Robinson, David, "Anderson Shooting If. . . ," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1968.
Gladwell, David, "Editing Anderson's If. . . ," in Screen (London), January/February 1969.
Lovell, Alan, and Jim Hillier, "Free Cinema," in Studies in Documentary , New York, 1972.
Lovell, Alan, "The Unknown Cinema of Britain," in Cinema Journal (Evanston), Spring 1972.
Wilson, D., " O Lucky Man! ," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1973.
Taylor, John, "Lindsay Anderson," in Directors and Directions , London, 1975.
Lovell, Alan, "Brecht in Britain—Lindsay Anderson," in Screen (London), Winter 1975.
Durgnat, Raymond, "Britannia Waives the Rules," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1976.
Lefèvre, Raymond, "Lindsay Anderson, ou la fidelité au Free Cinema," in Image et Son (Paris), October 1982.
Schickel, Richard, "Ford Galaxy," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1984.
Houston, Penelope, "Parker, Attenborough, Anderson," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1986.
McCarthy, Todd, "Lindsay Anderson," in Variety , 5 September 1994.
Kenny, Glenn, "The Magnificient Anderson," in Entertainment Weekly , 16 September 1994.
Cox, Jay, "Lindsay Anderson, 1923–1994: In Celebration," in Film Comment , November/December 1994.
* * *
In a 1958 essay titled "Get out and Push," Lindsay Anderson expressed his approach to working in the cinema. The way Anderson, the individual, approached working in the cinema paralleled the world view he put forth in feature films: the individual must examine the basis of the system within which he finds himself, "the motives that sustain it and the interests that it serves." It is the responsibility of the individual to actively seek a new self-definition beyond the confines of the established system; the individual cannot look for change to come from or through any outside authority—political, social, or spiritual. This theme is consistently present in Anderson's feature films.
In This Sporting Life , Anderson approaches the repression of a traditionally structured society through the personal, subjective story of Frank Machin and Margaret Hammond. The setting of This Sporting Life , an industrial northern city, is an environment divided into economic classes, a division which serves to emphasize the central problem of the film—the division within Frank Machin. Machin finds himself limited to the realm of the physical, and constantly attempts to connect with others on an emotional level. Despite his attempts, he is only seen in terms of his physical qualities; he is valued only when he is participating in the physical act of playing rugby.
Frank Machin is aware of his limitations but does not know how to change; he lacks direction. He tries to make others responsible for his happiness: Margaret Hammond, the rugby team, and even the elites of society who populate the world of Mr. and Mrs. Weaver, owners of the rugby team. Machin constantly attempts to break into the established system, seemingly unaware that it is this same system which controls and restrains him.
Mick Travis, the protagonist of Anderson's second feature film, If. . . , struggles instead to break out of the established system. Mick takes on the responsibility of action, and although his revolution is not complete, he does not remain trapped like Frank. The environment in If. . . , the English public school system, is a metaphor for the "separation of intellect from imagination," according to Elizabeth Sussex. The environment of College House does not allow for the creative development of the individual. It encourages separation and fragmentation of the self.
Film technique in If. . . also serves to reveal the narrative theme of the division of the self. The chapter headings physically divide the film into rigidly ordered sections, reflecting the separation of intellect and imagination encouraged by the nature of the tradition of College House. These chapter headings, along with the alternation between black and white and color film, function as distancing devices, making the viewer more aware of the medium.
A narrative technique Anderson used to illustrate the process that leads to Mick's eventual break from the system is the establishment of verbal language as an essential part of the structure of College House. When Mick expresses his disdain for College House through words, they are simply absorbed by the system. There is no change in Mick's situation until he initiates action by bayoneting the college chaplain. After this point, Mick no longer recites revolutionary rhetoric; in fact, he rarely speaks. He is no longer existing within the structure of College House. Totally free of the system, Mick launches into the destruction of the established order. Mick is no longer acted upon but is the creator of action; in this respect, he triumphs where Frank Machin fails.
In O Lucky Man! , the thematic sequel to If. . . , the medium of film itself becomes one of the narrative themes, and self-reflexive film techniques serve to reveal not only the narrative theme of self-definition, but also the process of filmmaking. The titles used in O Lucky Man! announce the different sections of the film but do not impose order; on the contrary, their abrupt appearance and brevity tend to interrupt the order of the narrative. It is as if the medium of film itself breaks through to remind the viewer of its existence. Indeed the medium, specifically the energy the medium generates, is one of the themes of O Lucky Man! The process of creation in the medium far exceeds anything Mick accomplishes in the narrative until the two meet in the final sequence.
Mick Travis, the character, confronts Lindsay Anderson, the director, at an audition for the film O Lucky Man! Mick obediently projects the different emotions Anderson demands of him until he is asked to smile. It is at this point that Mick finally takes action and rejects a direct order: "What is there to smile about?" he asks. Mick is looking outside himself for motivation, as he has done throughout the film, before he will take action. Anderson, exasperated, strikes Mick with a script. After receiving the blow, Mick is able to smile. He soon finds that he is one of the actors in the film; he too is capable of creating action.
Britannia Hospital , the final work in the series begun by If. . . , presents a much darker vision than Anderson's previous films. As in If. . . , the physical environment of the film—the hospital—is a metaphor for a static, repressive system. Unlike If. . . , this film contains little hope for change or progress, not for the individual and certainly not within the system itself. Mick Travis appears in this film as an investigative reporter who has achieved success by selling "something the people want," a reference to his former position in O Lucky Man! and a description of his motives as a news reporter. He is attempting to expose the questionable experiments of Britannia Hospital staff member Dr. Millar, the same unethical researcher from O Lucky Man! Although Mick puts up a fight, the system finally overwhelms him in this film.
Glory! Glory! , a Home Box Office production, is somewhat of a synthesis of Anderson's previous work in both theme and technique. The institution that stands as metaphor in this case is one peculiar to the United States, a television evangelism empire—The Church of the Companions of Christ. Like the school in If. . . , this institution has a verbal language essential to its structure, the use of which sanctions just about any action. Throughout the film people have "revelations" or "visions" in which God makes key decisions for them, removing all personal responsibility. Any action is justifiable—deception, fraud, blackmail—as long as it is done in "a holy cause" or "for the church."
The film techniques Anderson uses in Glory! Glory! are related to his earlier works. The medium is present throughout the narrative in the form of chapter headings and blackouts between chapters. Music is important to the narrative, as it is in O Lucky Man! , but in the later film it is integrated into the narrative structure rather than used as a distancing device.
The theme of personal responsibility for self-definition is clearly seen in the character of Ruth. She struggles throughout the film with the idea of who she wants to be and with the identities others want to impose on her. She reaches a key point in her personal progression when she admits that she has always needed some kind of crutch—sex, drugs, God. Not long after realizing that she has been looking outside herself for an identity, Ruth reveals that she finally understands God. In essence, she has created her own god, her own mythology. Ruth remains within the system, but for the first time actually believes in what she is "selling" because she has defined for herself the "authority" and the basis for the system.
Anderson's other features, In Celebration and The Whales of August , contain more subjective narratives but still explore the theme of the individual's responsibility for self-definition. In his last film, Is That All There Is? , an autobiographical documentary made for the BBC, Anderson presents himself as such an individual: an independent artist who actively sought a self-definition beyond the confines of the established system.