Ken Hughes

Last updated

Ken Hughes
Kenneth Graham Hughes

(1922-01-19)19 January 1922
Died28 April 2001(2001-04-28) (aged 79)
Los Angeles, California, United States [1]

Kenneth Graham Hughes (19 January 1922 – 28 April 2001) [2] was an English film director, writer and producer. He was the co-writer and director of the children's film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). [3] He has been called "a filmmaker whose output was consistently interesting and entertaining, and deserved more critical attention than it has received." [4]


Early Life and Career

Hughes was born in Yates St, Toxteth, Liverpool. [1] His family moved to London soon after. Hughes won an amateur film contest at age 14 [3] and worked as a projectionist. When he was sixteen he went to work for the BBC as a technician and became a sound engineer. [5]

In 1941 he began making documentaries and short features; [6] he also made training films for the Ministry of Defence. Hughes eventually returned to the BBC where he made documentaries.


Hughes's first film as director was the "B" movie Wide Boy (1952). He did a short feature, The Drayton Case (1953), which became the first of Anglo-Amalgamated's Scotland Yard film series (1953-61), and several of the later installments including The Dark Stairway (1953) and Murder Anonymous (1955). He did Black 13 (1954) then made The House Across the Lake (1954) for Hammer Films, based on Hughes' own novel.

He made The Brain Machine (1955), Little Red Monkey (1955), and Confession (1955). Timeslip (1955) was science fiction. He was one of several writers on The Flying Eye (1955) and Portrait of Alison (1955). [5]

Hughes received notice for Joe MacBeth (1955) a modernised re-telling of Macbeth set among American gangsters of the 1930s, but shot at Shepperton Studios in Surrey. [7] He shared an Emmy Award in 1959 for writing the television play Eddie (for Alcoa Theatre ) which starred Mickey Rooney. [1] [8]

The later 1950s

Hughes made some films for Columbia: Wicked as They Come (1956), and The Long Haul (1957). He wrote High Flight (1957) made by Warwick Films, producers Albert Broccoli and Irving Allen, who released through Columbia. For British TV he wrote episodes of Solo for Canary (1958).

For Warwick Films, he directed two films with Anthony Newley, Jazz Boat (1960) and In the Nick (1960). Warwick liked his work and hired Hughes to direct The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) with Peter Finch. It was well received, and was Hughes favourite among his films because he did not make any concessions in its production. [3]

Career peak

Hughes wrote and directed The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963), [3] based on Hughes' television play Sammy which had been broadcast by the BBC in 1958. Anthony Newley was the title lead in both playing a confidence trickster and gambler. [3] He directed episodes of the TV series Espionage (1964).

He replaced Bryan Forbes, who in turn had replaced Henry Hathaway as director of Of Human Bondage (1964), starring Laurence Harvey and Kim Novak. It was financed by Seven Arts who used Hughes on the Tony Curtis comedy Drop Dead Darling (1965). Hughes also wrote episodes for the TV series An Enemy of the State (1965). He was subsequently one of several directors who worked on the James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967).

He co-wrote and directed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) for producer Broccoli. Although it was a success at the box-office, it received a negative response from critics who objected to its sentimentality. [9] It was a project he did not enjoy working on. "The film made a lot of money, but that doesn't really make me feel any better about it. On the other hand, I've made pictures that got awards at Berlin and places, and didn't make any money, and that doesn't make me feel any better either". [7]

Irving Allen produced Cromwell (1970), a dream project of Hughes who called it the "best thing I've ever done". [5] It starred Richard Harris in the title role and Alec Guinness as Charles I, but was not a financial success. [7] It meant he was unable to raise funds for a proposed film of Ten Days That Shook the World . [5]

In 1969 Hughes sold his company, Ken Hughes Productions, to Constellation Investments for the issue at par of 300,000 of 6 percent convertible unsecured loan stock. The stock was deposited by the vendors as security for warranties that profits of Ken Hughes Productions during the next ten years will exceed £500,000 after corporations tax and be available to Constellation. [10] [11]

Later career

Hughes directed The Internecine Project (1974) for British Lion and Alfie Darling (1975), a sequel to Alfie (1966); they both flopped. [9] He wrote and directed episodes of Oil Strike North (1975).

Hughes sold his production company for £300,000 in 1969, but encountered financial difficulties in the 1970s. [12] In July 1975 he declared bankruptcy. He told the London Bankruptcy Court he earned £44,177 in 1968 and £47,960 in 1969 but nothing in 1970. "The film industry collapsed," said Hughes. "It has not recovered yet." He had debts of £32,277 and had to sell his house to pay creditors. Hughes attributed his financial situation to paying maintenance to two wives and an inability to reduce expenses. He was also hit by a tax bill.[ citation needed ]

He worked in the United States for the first time directing Mae West in her last film, Sextette (1978). [1]

His final film was the slasher movie Night School (1981), the film debut of Rachel Ward.

Personal life and death

Hughes had three marriages, to two women. From 1946 to 1957, he was married to Charlotte Epstein. From 1970 to 1976, he was married to Cherry Price, with whom he had a daughter Melinda, an opera singer. The marriage was dissolved in 1976, and Hughes remarried his first wife in 1982. [3] They were married when Hughes died from complications from Alzheimer's disease. He had been living in a nursing home in Panorama City in Los Angeles. [3]

Critical appraisal

Filmink magazine did a profile on Hughes which argued "he was a very “ups and downs” kind of guy with a solid overall average: the maker of a genuine classic (Trials of Oscar Wilde), a handful of terrific movies (Long Haul, Joe MacBeth, Wide Boy) and some films that have splendid things in them (Small World of Sammy Lee, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and yes, Casino Royale). He also made movies that were dull (Cromwell), dire (Alfie Darling), disappointing (Timeslip) and in one case, beyond belief (Sextette). He clearly worked best when attached to a feisty little production company with strong Hollywood links." [4]



Related Research Articles

Blake Edwards American filmmaker (1922–2010)

Blake Edwards was an American actor, film director, producer and screenwriter.

Denver Pyle American actor (1920–1997)

Denver Dell Pyle was an American film and television actor and director. He was well known for a number of TV roles from the 1960s through the 1980s, including his portrayal of Briscoe Darling Jr. in several episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, as Jesse Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard from 1979 to 1985, as Mad Jack in the NBC television series The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, as well as the titular character's father, Buck Webb, in CBS's The Doris Day Show. In many of his roles, he portrayed either authority figures, or gruff, demanding father figures, often as comic relief.

Alfie Bass English actor

Alfie Bass was an English actor. He was born in Bethnal Green, London, the youngest in a Jewish family with ten children; his parents had left Russia many years before he was born. He appeared in a variety of stage, film, television and radio productions throughout his career.

Lionel Jeffries English actor, screenwriter and film director

Lionel Charles Jeffries was an English actor, director and screenwriter. He appeared primarily in films and received a Golden Globe Award nomination during his acting career.

<i>Cromwell</i> (film) 1970 British film directed by Ken Hughes

Cromwell is a 1970 British historical drama film written and directed by Ken Hughes. It is based on the life of Oliver Cromwell, who rose to lead the Parliamentary forces during the later parts of the English Civil War and, as Lord Protector, ruled Great Britain and Ireland in the 1650s. It features an ensemble cast, led by Richard Harris as Cromwell and Alec Guinness as King Charles I, with Robert Morley as Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester and Timothy Dalton as Prince Rupert of the Rhine.

Sally Ann Howes British actress and singer

Sally Ann Howes is an English actress and singer who holds dual British-American citizenship. Her career on stage, screen, and television has spanned over six decades. She is best known for the role of Truly Scrumptious in the 1968 musical film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical in 1963 for her performance in Brigadoon.

László Benedek was a Hungarian-born film director and cinematographer, most notable for directing The Wild One (1953).

Peter Arne British actor

Peter Arne was a British character actor. He made more than 50 film appearances including roles in Ice Cold in Alex, The Moonraker, Conspiracy of Hearts and Victor Victoria. In a career that spanned 40 years he also appeared on stage and had supporting roles in the television series The Avengers, Danger Man, as well as villains in several of the Blake Edwards' Pink Panther series of films.

Victor Maddern English actor

Victor Jack Maddern was an English actor, described by The Telegraph as having "one of the most distinctive and eloquent faces in post-war British cinema."

Richard Wattis English actor

Richard Wattis was an English actor, co-starring in many popular British comedies of the 1950s and 1960s.

James Philip O'Connolly was an English actor, director, producer and screenwriter. He is best known as the associate producer of many of the Edgar Wallace Mysteries b-films made at Merton Park Studios in the early 1960s, though he also directed a number of other low budget British movies, including The Hi-Jackers (1963), Smokescreen (1964), and Tower of Evil (1972), as well as several episodes of The Saint.

Ken is a masculine given name of Scottish / Scottish Gaelic origin. It is used either as a given name or as a short form of names with the letters "Ken". Ken is also a Japanese name which can have many different meanings depending on the kanji used.

Kenneth Hughes may be:

Robert L. Lippert American film producer

Robert Lenard Lippert was an American film producer and cinema chain owner. He was president and chief operating officer of Lippert Theatres, Affiliated Theatres and Transcontinental Theatres, all based in San Francisco, who eventually owned a chain of 139 theatres.

Robin Hughes (actor) British actor

Robin Hughes was a British film and television actor.

<i>Timeslip</i> (1955 film) 1955 British film

Timeslip is a 1955 British black-and-white science fiction film directed by Ken Hughes and starring Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue. Produced by Alec C. Snowden, it is based on a script by Charles Eric Maine, who also wrote Spaceways.

Larry Taylor (actor)

Larry Taylor was an English actor and stuntman. He spent a dozen years in the army before World War II. After demobilization he got a job in the film industry. He was the father of Rocky Taylor. Taylor mainly played villainous supporting roles in dozens of UK films and television episodes from the 1950s until the early 1970s, when he moved to South Africa in the mid-1970s, and from then on he appeared in a mixture of international movies filmed there and domestic South African films and television episodes.

Felix Felton

Robert Forbes Felton, known professionally as Felix Felton, was a British film, television, stage and voice actor as well as a radio director, composer and author.

Tony Owen was an American agent and producer, who was married to Donna Reed.

Harry Pottle (1925–1998) was a British art director.


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Ken Hughes — Film Director, 79". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2 May 2001. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  2. BFI
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Thurber, Jon (30 April 2001). "Ken Hughes; Screenwriter and Director of 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  4. 1 2 Vagg, Stephen (14 November 2020). "Ken Hughes Forgotten Auteur". Filmink.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Cromwell knocked about a bit The Guardian 16 July 1970: 8.
  6. Obituary at Variety
  7. 1 2 3 Bergan, Ronald (1 May 2001). "Ken Hughes". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  8. "Alfred Brenner". 17 August 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  9. 1 2 "Ken Hughes". The Daily Telegraph. 1 May 2001. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  10. Hattersley—Steel Radiators Merger Date: Saturday, Feb. 8, 1969 Publication: Financial Times (London, England) Issue: 24,768 p 15
  11. Constellation's £300,000 buy Author: Kenneth Fleet, City Editor Date: Saturday, Feb. 8, 1969 Publication: The Daily Telegraph (London, England) Issue: 35391 p 3
  12. Ken Hughes: [1F Edition] The Times; London (UK) [London (UK)]02 May 2001: 19.