Cy Endfield

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Cy Endfield
Cyril Endfield.jpg
Cyril Raker Endfield

November 10, 1914
DiedApril 16, 1995 (aged 80)
OccupationFilm director
theatre director

Cyril Raker Endfield (November 10, 1914 – April 16, 1995) was an American screenwriter, film director, theatre director, author, magician and inventor. Having been named as a Communist at a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing and subsequently blacklisted, he moved to Britain in 1953, where he spent the remainder of his career.[1]

Early life[edit]

Endfield was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to a Jewish immigrant father whose business was hit hard by the Great Depression.[2] He attended Yale University.

Career in USA[edit]

Endfield began his career as a theatre director and drama coach, becoming a significant figure in New York's progressive theatre scene.[3] It was largely through a shared interest of magic that Orson Welles became aware of him, and recruited him as an apprentice for Mercury Productions (then based at RKO Pictures).[1] One of his independent films was Inflation (1940), a 15-minute commission for the Office of War Information that was rejected as being anti-capitalist.[4]

The debacle surrounding the production of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) ended with the expulsion of the Mercury team from the RKO lot and Endfield signed on as a contract director at MGM where he directed a wide variety of shorts (including the last films in the long-running Our Gang series), before freelancing on low-budget productions for Monogram and other independents.[5] He served in the Army in World War II.[4]

It was with the film noir The Underworld Story (1950), a United Artists independent production released, that Endfield first came to critical and studio attention. The film was a major leap from anything he had previously produced in regards to 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.[6] He followed this with the film often cited as his masterpiece,[7][8][9][10] 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.[11] It was with these two films that Endfield's signature approach to character developed, pessimistic without being uncompassionate.[7]

Career in the United Kingdom[edit]

In 1951 Endfield was named as a Communist at a HUAC hearing. Subsequently, being blacklisted without work prompted his move to Britain in 1953, where, under various pseudonyms (to avoid complication with releases in the U.S.), he wrote and directed films.[12] These often starred fellow blacklistees, such as Lloyd Bridges and Sam Wanamaker.[13][14] Three films--The Limping Man (1953), Impulse (1954), and Child in the House (1956)--list Charles de la Tour (a documentary filmmaker) as co-director because the ACT (Association of Cinematograph Technicians) insisted Endfield could direct in Britain without being a full member of the union only if he had a British director on set as a standby.[15]Hell Drivers was his first project released under his real name and as well as his debut BAFTA nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay category.[16] Special effects by Ray Harryhausen were a feature in his Mysterious Island (1961).[17]

In the mid-1960's he made Zulu (1964), a landmark war film in 20th Century British cinema depicting the Battle of Rourke's Drift in the Anglo Zulu War of the 1870's. This was followed by Sands of the Kalahari (1965) with Susannah York.[4] After a few more independent productions he withdrew from film direction in 1971, his final film being Universal Soldier, in which he made a cameo appearance alongside Germaine Greer.[18] 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.[19][20]


Endfield's grave in Highgate Cemetery

Endfield died in 1995 at the age of 80 at Shipston-on-Stour, in Warwickshire, England.[4] His body was buried at Highgate Cemetery in London.


Endfield is co-credited with Chris Rainey for 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.[21]

British magician Michael Vincent credits Endfield as one of his biggest influences. The classic Cy Endfield's Entertaining Card Magic (1955), by Lewis Ganson, includes a variety of Endfield's creations in card magic.

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b Trevor Willsmer (April 21, 1995). "OBITUARY : Cy Endfield - People - News". The Independent. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  3. ^ "Cy Endfield - MagicPedia". Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d viewed 9-3-2014.
  5. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Endfield, Cy (1914-95) Biography". Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  6. ^ "DVD Savant Review: The Underworld Story". Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Potent Pessimism [on Cy Endfield". Jonathan Rosenbaum. July 10, 1992. Archived from the original on May 25, 2014. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  8. ^ "The Sound of Fury". MoMA. November 6, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  9. ^ "Try and Get Me (a.k.a. The Sound of Fury) (1950); Repeat Performance (1947) | UCLA Film & Television Archive". March 4, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  10. ^ "Cy Endfield | American Cinematheque". Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  11. ^ New York Times
  12. ^ viewed 9-3 -2014.
  13. ^ "Abbreviated View of Movie Page". December 11, 1953. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  14. ^ "The Secret | BFI | BFI". Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  15. ^ Brian Neve, The Many Lives of Cy Endfield: Film Noir, the Blacklist, and Zulu (University of Wisconsin Press, 2015), pp105-106
  16. ^ /02/obituaries/cy-endfield-80-blacklisted-director.html; viewed 9-3-2014.
  17. ^ "Mysterious Island (1961)". Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  18. ^ "Cy Endfield | shadowplay". Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  19. ^ "Zulu Dawn: Cy Endfield: 9780523411484: Books". August 1, 1980. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  20. ^ "Empire's Zulu Dawn Movie Review". Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  21. ^

External links[edit]