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Obituary: Andrew McLaglen, British film director


Family Path: Andrew McLaglen started making movies when he was still in high school.

Family Path: Andrew McLaglen started making movies when he was still in high school.

Family Path: Andrew McLaglen started making movies when he was still in high school.

Andrew McLaglen, the British-born film director, who has died aged 94, made his name as an unpretentious, old-fashioned storyteller, using stars including John Wayne, James Stewart and Richard Burton.

Andrew Victor McLaglen was born in Wandsworth, south-west London, on July 28 1920, the son of Victor McLaglen, who had just started his film career with a silent movie, The Call Of The Road (1920). Accepting an offer from Hollywood in 1924, Victor travelled to America - his wife, Enid, his daughter Sheila and son Andrew, joining him there two years later. While his father became a member of John Ford Stock Company, going on to star in The Informer, Andrew attended Cates School in Los Angeles, where he began "directing 16mm movies with pals as performers".

He studied briefly at the University of Virginia, where a friend was another future genre director, Robert Aldrich. On account of McLaglen's height - he stood 6ft 7in tall - he was exempted from military service during World War II, working instead for a defence contractor.

In 1944 he made a fleeting appearance on screen, dancing with Jennifer Jones in a romance, Since You Went Away (1944), before becoming a clerk at Republic Pictures, the Western and serials specialists. He recalled that while 'The Singing Cowboy' Gene Autry was rendering his songs, "I was telling him what the words were."

Other early credits for McLaglen were as second assistant director on The Sands of Iwo Jima (1950), starring John Wayne, and The Quiet Man (1952), in which McLaglen's father, Victor, played Squire 'Red' Will Danaher, the obstreperous brother of Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara) who wished to marry Sean Thornton (John Wayne).

He was production manager on Hondo (1954), of which Wayne was both producer and star, and in 1956 made his debut as director with Man in the Vault, a thriller with Anita Ekberg. In the same year McLaglen directed a Western, Gun the Man Down, starring James Arness, who promptly recommended him to take on episodes of Gunsmoke, in which Arness starred as Matt Dillon. The result was a five-year contract with CBS, for which McLaglen also worked on Have Gun - Will Travel, about an erudite gunslinger called Paladin (Richard Boone), as well as Rawhide, with Clint Eastwood, and Perry Mason.

McLaglen stated that McLintock! (1963), for Wayne's production company Batjac, was "my first big movie . . . Duke thought it was about time that I be able to direct him." It led to Hellfighters (1969), with Wayne as a thinly veiled Red Adair; The Undefeated (1969), pairing him with Rock Hudson; Chisum (1970); and Cahill - United States Marshal (1973).

McLaglen was a golfing partner of James Stewart, directing him in Shenandoah (1965), set in the American Civil War, and The Rare Breed (1966), which featured Maureen O'Hara as the spirited British owner of a prize Hereford bull. Another Western was Bandolero! (1968), headlined by Stewart and Dean Martin, who he directed again in a comic take on the genre, Something Big, in 1971.

McLaglen's British war films were prefigured by The Devil's Brigade (1968), and a decade later he was responsible for The Wild Geese, starring Richard Burton, Roger Moore and Richard Harris as military men turned mercenaries, inspired by the real-life Colonel 'Mad' Mike Hoare. His next tale of old soldiers, The Sea Wolves (1980), was a wartime drama with Moore, Gregory Peck, David Niven and Trevor Howard.

Andrew McLaglen, who retired from making films in 1989, was married four times. He was predeceased by his fourth wife, and by one son; two daughters and one son survive him.

© Telegraph

Sunday Independent