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(30 years old)
Jpg: NPG
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Elinor M. Barnard

Anthony Asquith??
c. 1923

Anthony Asquith
John Singer Sargent -- American painter
c. 1908
Private collection
 Jpg: Friend of the JSS Gallery

Anthony Asquith "Puffin" (1902-1968), youngest son of Herbert Henry and Margot Asquith, Count and Countess of Oxford.

His father was the British Prime Minister and he grew up in 10 Downing Street from when he was six years old to fifteen (1908-1916).

To the dismay of his political father, however, he didn’t take after his half siblings who where into politics or the law, but more after his mother who was more of a free spirit and artistically minded.

He did go to Oxford, like his father had, and studied the classics. After graduating he traveled to Hollywood at a time when things were really taking off and stayed with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. --  How about having Charlie Chaplin as a neighbor, nice, huh? When he returned to England the only job he could get was at the lowest level (tea boy) but with his family connections he moved up pretty quickly and by the age of twenty-five co-directed his first movie "Shooting Stars" (1928) with A.V. Bramble which today apparently is widely considered to a small classic and Britain’s greatest silent film -- at the time his salary was to £2 a week. His father thought the whole thing was a joke and was waiting for him to grow up.

Puffin continued on, regardless; but the film industry was going through some substantial growing pains into talkies and he
struggled with the critics (artistically) who called his films too arty.

It seems his second break came in 1938 when he was allowed to co-direct the movie "Pygmalion"  because of his close relations with George Bernard Shaw who wrote the play (1914). The movie was a hit staring Leslie Howard (this success, however, would later totally be eclipse by another adaptation of Shaw’s work under the musical named “My Fair Lady” (1964) with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.)

But in 1938, Puffin was back in the drivers seat and he would never look back, Over the course of the next quarter century he would crank out a number of admirable films and would work with some of the greatest actors of the time: Laurence Olivier, Edith Evans, Rex Harrison, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Shirley MacLaine, Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, Peter Sellers, Leslie Caron, David Niven, Dirk Bogarde.

He wasn’t considered a Great Director, and after the time of his death a lot of his work was looked down on as not being cutting edge, but he was a Good Director and worked in what was England’s equivalent of the Hollywood studio system – cranking them out.

I personally haven’t seen a lot of his work – I intend to, but from what I can gather some of his more notable films also included: “Quiet Wedding” (1940);  “The Importance of Being Earnest” (1952) a theatrical version of Oscar Wilde's play; “The Winslow Boy” (1948); “Carrington VC” (1954); “The Millionairess” (1960);and “The Way To The Stars” (1945) – a movie I have seen but it was so long ago I don’t really remember much other than it was a WWII movie.

Apparently he had a kind heart and was generous to a fault and he struggled with alcoholism and died from complications from that – I think.

I wonder if his father ever came around to appreciating his choice of careers?

<>Directed films
Filmography (features only)

1927 Shooting Stars (co-directed)
1928 Underground
1930 A Cottage on Dartmoor
1931 Tell England (co-directed)
1932 Dance Pretty Lady
1933 The Lucky Number
1934 Unfinished Symphony
1935 Moscow Nights
1935 Brown on Resolution (co-directed)
1938 Pygmalion (co-directed)
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


Emma (Margot), Countess of Oxford and Asquith  
(mother to Anthony Asquith)

Elizabeth Asquith
(Older sister to Anthony Asquith)

Special thanks to Matt Davies, of Kansas City, a friend of the JSS Gallery, for sending me a note regarding this image.   

From: Matt Davies 
<matt davies @> 
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002 

The picture is not dated in the book, but I am guessing it would  be c. 1908 (?) as maybe he is about six in the drawing?

From John Sargent, 1927, by the Hon. Evan Charteris (published by Charles Scribner's Sons).  (Charteris was one of the Souls,  
and knew Sargent well.)

1916, Royal Society of Portrait Painters, hosted at the Grafton Galleries, London. Opened June, 1916.  

  • See the year in review  1908


Created 10/11/2002