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News > Articles > Lindsay Anderson, OR

Lindsay Anderson, OR

Film director, Old Ronian.
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Saint Ronan’s is fortunate to have many notable alumni but Lindsay Anderson (OR 1931-935) is definitely the most famous film director. He showed an early interest in theatre while at the school in Worthing and his headmaster, WB Harris, remarked in January 1935’s Ronian magazine that he was ‘outstanding as Caliban in The Tempest.’  

From Saint Ronan’s he went on to Cheltenham and then to Oxford, where his MA in English was interrupted by a spell as an Army cryptographer at the end of World War 2.  Thereafter he became a feared and respected film critic who clearly felt that the British Cinema of the day was irredeemably middle-brow and middle-class. He started making films himself, as part of the Free Cinema and British New Wave movements of the late 1950s and early 60s.

One of his early short films, Thursday's Children (1954), concerning the education of deaf children, won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short in 1954. Anderson was also a significant theatre director and was the Associate Artistic Director of the Royal Court from 1971-75, directing luminaries such as Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud.  His first full length feature film was ‘This Sporting Life’ (1963) which starred Richard Harris (later Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films). But he is best remembered for his ‘Mick Travis Trilogy’, all of which starred Malcolm McDowell as the title character. ‘If’, a satirical portrait of rebellion in a British boarding school, is the most famous of the three and won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1968. But if we were worried that its shocking denouement on the roof was borne out of its director’s unhappiness at Saint Ronan’s, we shouldn’t be!  He seems to have enjoyed his time at the school and his Headmaster sent him off with an affectionate valedictory in the Ronian, saying that he would miss his formidable intellectual power and cheery personality and that he expected much of him in the future. He was right to expect much: his small charge, who wrote ‘I rebel’ on a blackboard at the age of 9, became the leading light of British cinema in the second half of the previous century.  

As his great friend and namesake at Saint Ronan’s, John Anderson, said in his 1995 obituary for the Ronian magazine, he was ‘an acute, provocative, free-thinker and spirit who ran ahead of the feelings of the time.’

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