Obituary: Alexander McKendrick

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The Independent Online
IN 1939 I got a job as a trainee art director in the J. Walter Thompson Company, an American-owned advertising agency then resident in Bush House, in Aldwych, writes Ruari McLean (further to the obituary of Alexander McKendrick, 28 December).

I was put into a small room with Sandy McKendrick, then a very young man, not long out of Glasgow School of Art, with tousled black hair, eyes that looked crumby with sleep, and an ability to make long, animated telephone calls while still drawing with his right hand. He was making puppet films for Rowntrees with the Hungarian producer George Pal. This involved clay figures which had to be kept wet during weekends by leaving a tap dripping on them: our part of Bush House was frequently flooded.

After three days he condescended to speak to me, saying 'There are more brains around a JWT client meeting than at a meeting of the Cabinet.' I was duly impressed.

When McKendrick discovered that I could draw (which was the only reason I was there) he put me on to inventing comic situations for Rowntree Milk Chocolate ads in three frames, which had to end with someone saying 'And Rowntrees has such an interesting flavour, don't you think, Mr Wagstaff?'

I wish I had known then that he was going to direct three of my favourite films, Whisky Galore, The Ladykillers and The Man in the White Suit.

(Photograph omitted)