Freddie Francis

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Freddie Francis
Freddie Francis photo.jpg
Historical photo of Francis
Born(1917-12-22)22 December 1917
Islington, Middlesex, England
Died17 March 2007(2007-03-17) (aged 89)
Isleworth, London, England
Resting place Mortlake Crematorium, Kew, London, England
OccupationCinematographer, film director
Years active1937–1999
Gladys Dorrell
(m. 1940;div. 1961)

Pamela Mann
(m. 1963)
Awards Academy Award for Best Cinematography
1960 Sons and Lovers
1989 Glory

Frederick William Francis (22 December 1917 – 17 March 2007) was an English cinematographer and film director. [1]


He achieved his greatest successes as a cinematographer, including winning two Academy Awards for Sons and Lovers (1960) and Glory (1989). [2] As a director, he was associated with the British production companies Amicus and Hammer in the 1960s and 1970s.

Early life and career

Born in Islington in London, England, Francis originally planned to become an engineer. At school, a piece he wrote about films of the future won him a scholarship to the North West London Polytechnic in Kentish Town. He left school at age 16, becoming an apprentice to photographer Louis Prothero. Francis stayed with Prothero for six months. In this time they photographed stills for a Stanley Lupino picture made at Associated Talking Pictures (later Ealing Studios). This led to his successively becoming a clapper boy, camera loader and focus puller. He began his career in films at British International Pictures, then moved to British and Dominions. His first film as a clapper boy was The Prisoner of Corbal (1936).

In 1939, Francis joined the Army, where he would spend the next seven years. Eventually, he was assigned as cameraman and director to the Army Kinematograph Service at Wembley Studios, where he worked on many training films. About this, Francis said, "Most of the time I was with various film units within the service, so I got quite a bit of experience in all sorts of jobs, including being a cameraman and editing and generally being a jack of all trades."

Following his return to civilian life, Francis spent the next 10 years working as a camera operator. Films he worked on during this period include The Elusive Pimpernel (1950), The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), Beat the Devil (1953), and Moby Dick (1956); he was a frequent collaborator with cinematographers Christopher Challis (nine films) and Oswald Morris (five films). His first feature with Morris was Golden Salamander (1950).

Francis was on the second unit of Moby Dick. He became a main unit director of photography on A Hill in Korea (1956), which was shot in Portugal. He subsequently worked on such prestige pictures as Room at the Top (1959), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Sons and Lovers (1960), and The Innocents (1961), which he regarded as one of the best films he shot.

Francis received many industry awards, including, in 1997, an international achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers, and in 2004, BAFTA's special achievement award.

Directorial career

Following his Academy Award win for Sons and Lovers, Francis began his career as director of feature films. His first feature as director was Two and Two Make Six (1962). For the next 20-plus years, Francis worked continuously as a director of low-budget films, most of them in the genres of horror or psycho-thriller.

Beginning with Paranoiac (1963), Francis made numerous films for Hammer throughout the 1960s and 1970s. These films included thrillers like Nightmare (1964) and Hysteria (1965), as well as monster films such as The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968). On his apparent typecasting as a director of these types of film, Francis said "Horror films have liked me more than I have liked horror films".

Also in the mid-1960s, Francis began an association with Amicus Productions, another studio like Hammer which specialised in horror pictures. Most of the films Francis made for Amicus were anthologies such as Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), Torture Garden (1968) and Tales from the Crypt (1972). He also did two films for the short-lived company Tyburn films. These were The Ghoul (1975) and Legend of the Werewolf (1975). As a director, Francis was more than competent, and his horror films possessed an undeniable visual flair. However, he regretted that he was seldom able to move beyond genre material as a director. Francis directed the little-seen Son of Dracula (1974), starring Harry Nilsson in the title role and Ringo Starr as Merlin the Magician. Of the films Francis directed, one of his favorites was Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny, and Girly (1970). Mumsy... was a black comedy about an isolated, upper-class family whose relationships and behaviors came equipped with deadly consequences. The film was not very well received by mainstream critics but has gone on to become a minor cult favorite among fans. In 1985, Francis directed The Doctor and the Devils , based on the crimes of Burke and Hare.

Francis's last film as director was 1987's Dark Tower (no relation to the 2004 book of the same name by Stephen King). Francis thought it was a bad picture owing to poor special effects and had his name taken off it. His name was substituted with the name Ken Barnett. Francis is featured in the book Conversations with Cinematographers (2012) by David A Ellis and published by American publisher Scarecrow Press.

Return to cinematography

With The Elephant Man (1980), directed by David Lynch, Francis gained a new-found industry and critical respect as a cinematographer. During the 1980s, he worked on films such as The Executioner's Song (1982), Dune (1984) and Glory (1989), which earned him his second Academy Award. Francis provided the cinematography for the critical favorite The Man in the Moon as well as Martin Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear (both 1991). His final film as cinematographer was David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999), which was shot on location in Iowa in 23 days. One of his favorite camera operators was Gordon Hayman. He made several films with him including the Cape Fear remake and Glory, but Hayman was left off the credits for the later film by mistake.

Personal life

Francis married Gladys Dorrell in 1940, with whom he had a son; in 1963 he married Pamela Mann-Francis, with whom he had a daughter and a second son.

Francis died at age 89 as the result of the lingering effects of a stroke.

Selected filmography

As cinematographer

1956 A Hill in Korea Julian Amyes
1957 Time Without Pity Joseph Losey
The Scamp Wolf Rilla
1958 Next to No Time Henry Cornelius
Virgin Island Pat Jackson
1959 Room at the Top Jack Clayton
1960 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Karel Reisz
Sons and Lovers Jack Cardiff Academy Award for Best Cinematography
Never Take Sweets from a Stranger Cyril Frankel
1961 The Innocents Jack Clayton
1980 The Elephant Man David Lynch Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography
1981 The French Lieutenant's Woman Karel ReiszNominated – BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography
1982 The Executioner's Song Lawrence Schiller
1983 The Jigsaw Man Terence Young
1984 Memed, My Hawk Peter Ustinov
Dune David Lynch
1985 Return to Oz Walter Murch Uncredited
Code Name: Emerald Jonathan Sanger
1988 Clara's Heart Robert Mulligan
1989 Her Alibi Bruce Beresford
Brenda Starr Robert Ellis Miller With Peter Stein
Glory Edward Zwick Academy Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography
1991 Cape Fear Martin Scorsese Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography
The Man in the Moon Robert Mulligan
1992 School Ties Robert Mandel
1993 A Life in the Theatre Gregory Mosher TV movie
1996 Rainbow Bob Hoskins
1999 The Straight Story David LynchFinal film

As director

YearTitleProduction companyNotes
1962 Two and Two Make Six Prometheus FilmRomantic comedy
1963 Paranoiac Hammer Oliver Reed (lead), Thriller
1964 The Evil of Frankenstein Hammer Peter Cushing (lead)
1964 Traitor's Gate Rialto Film West German-British co-production
1964 Nightmare Hammer Moira Redmond (female lead)
1965 Dr. Terror's House of Horrors Amicus Anthology film
1965 The Skull AmicusScored by Elisabeth Lutyens
1965 Hysteria Hammer Robert Webber (lead)
1966 The Psychopath Amicus Patrick Wymark (lead)
1967 The Deadly Bees Amicus Suzanna Leigh (lead)
1967 They Came from Beyond Space AmicusScience fiction
1967 Torture Garden AmicusAnthology film
1968 Dracula Has Risen from the Grave Hammer Veronica Carlson (lead)
1970 Trog Herman Cohen ProductionsCult film; last Joan Crawford film
1970 Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly Brigitte, Fitzroy Films Ltd, Ronald J. Kahn ProductionsCult film
1971 The Vampire Happening Aquila Film EnterprisesGerman-language
1972 Tales from the Crypt AmicusAnthology film
1973 The Creeping Flesh Tigon Christopher Lee (lead)
1973 Tales That Witness Madness World Film ServicesAnthology film
1974 Son of Dracula Apple Films Harry Nilsson (lead), Musical film
1975 The Ghoul Tyburn Film ProductionsPeter Cushing (lead)
1975 Legend of the Werewolf Tyburn Film ProductionsPeter Cushing (lead)
1985 The Doctor and the Devils Brooksfilms Timothy Dalton (lead)
1989 Dark Tower Sandy Howard Productions Michael Moriarty (lead)

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  1. "Francis, Frederick William [Freddie] (1917–2007), cinematographer and film director" . Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/98649 . Retrieved 31 October 2020.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. "Freddie Francis | British cinematographer and director". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 31 October 2020.


Freddie Francis interview British Entertainment History Project