Cyril Raker Endfield (November 10, 1914 – April 16, 1995) was an American screenwriter, film director, theatre director, author, magician and inventor, based in Britain from 1953.
Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, after attending Yale University, Endfield began his career as a theatre director and drama coach, becoming an important figure in New York's progressive theatre scene. Despite this shared background, it was largely Endfield's skill as a card magician which brought him to the attention of Orson Welles, who recruited him as an apprentice for Mercury Productions (at that time based at RKO Pictures). Following the debacle surrounding the production of The Magnificent Ambersons (which ended with the expulsion of the Mercury team from the RKO lot) Endfield signed on as a contract director at MGM, directing a wide variety of shorts (including the last films in the long-running Our Gang series), before moving on to freelance on low-budget productions for Monogram and independents.
It was with the 1950 film noir The Underworld Story, an independent production released through United Artists, that Endfield first came to critical and studio attention. The film was a major leap from anything he had produced before in terms of budget and social commentary, a coruscating attack on press corruption which could equally be taken as a wider attack on the McCarthyite ideology of the times. He followed this with the film often cited as his masterpiece, The Sound of Fury (aka Try And Get Me!), a lynching thriller based on a true story. Except for the lynch scene, the film was not well received by critics. It was with these two films that Endfield's signature approach to character developed, pessimistic without being uncompassionate.
In 1951 Endfield was named as a Communist at a HUAC hearing. Blacklisted by the movie studio bosses, he was unable to get work in Hollywood and moved to Britain where he wrote and directed films under various pseudonyms, often starring fellow blacklistees. In 1958, Endfield was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay for Hell Drivers. In 1961 he made Mysterious Island featuring special effects by Ray Harryhausen.
His best remembered film is Zulu (1964). After a few more independent productions he withdrew from film direction in 1971, his final film being Universal Soldier where he made a cameo appearance with Germaine Greer. In 1979 he wrote the non-fiction book Zulu Dawn, which tells the story of the British military campaign against the Zulu Nation in 1879. A film adaptation of the book was released in the same year, co-written by Endfield and directed by Douglas Hickox.
Another accomplishment Endfield is credited with, along with Chris Rainey, is a pocket-sized/miniature computer with a chorded keypad that allows rapid typing without a bulky single-stroke keyboard. It functions like a musical instrument by pressing combinations of keys that he called a "Microwriter" to generate a full alphanumeric character set. It is currently under further development, as "CyKey", for PC and Palm PDA, by Endfield's former partner, Chris Rainey and Bellaire Electronics. CyKey is named after Cy Endfield.
Endfield was also an accomplished magician and creator of card magic. British magician Michael Vincent credits Endfield as one of his biggest influences. Some of his creations in card magic were written up in the classic "Cy Endfield's Entertaining Card Magic" by Lewis Ganson.
Cy Endfield died in 1995 in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, England, aged 80.
- The Argyle Secrets (1948)
- The Underworld Story (1950)
- The Sound of Fury (1950)
- Tarzan's Savage Fury (1952)
- The Limping Man (1953)
- Impulse (1954)
- The Master Plan (1955)
- The Secret (1955)
- Child in the House (1956)
- Hell Drivers (1957)
- Sea Fury (1958)
- Jet Storm (1959)
- Mysterious Island (1961)
- Zulu (1964)
- Hide and Seek (1964)
- Sands of the Kalahari (1965)
- De Sade (1969)
- Universal Soldier (1971)
- Zulu Dawn (1979)
- Cy Endfield at the Internet Movie Database
- Cy Endfield biography and credits at the British Film Institute's Screenonline