Obituary: Anthony Bushell

With his upright bearing, cultured diction and delicate good looks - he once understudied Ivor Novello - the actor (later producer and director) Anthony Bushell started his career as a sensitive, if callow, leading man before graduating to character roles in which be excelled as (not always honourable) members of the British military. He had a brief career on the London and Broadway stages and as a leading man in Hollywood before carving a niche for himself in the British cinema. Later he became Sir Laurence Olivier's general manager and both produced and directed movies and television shows.

Born in Westerham, Kent in 1904, he was educated at Magdalen College School, then at Hertford College, Oxford, where he befriended Evelyn Waugh, a fellow member of the Hypocrites Club, a raffish group described by Waugh in his diaries as "notorious not only for drunkenness but for flamboyance of dress and manner which was in some cases patently homosexual". Waugh describes their heavy drinking and wild parties, including an "orgy" where he "unearthed a strap and whipped Tony". Despite the roistering, Bushell was the college's middle-weight boxing champion during his first year, and later became stroke of their rowing crew.

After Oxford, Bushell studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and made his theatrical debut at the Adelphi Theatre in 1924 in Diplomacy, starring Gladys Cooper and Sir Gerald Du Maurier. In 1927 he made his debut on the Broadway stage opposite Jeanne Eagels in Her Cardboard Lover, and the following year he married the musical comedy star Zelma O'Neal. In his next Broadway play, Somerset Maugham's The Sacred Flame, he was seen by the actor George Arliss who insisted that he be cast as the romantic juvenile in Disraeli (1929), Arliss's first talking picture.

Bushell followed this with the role of the cowardly Second Lieutenant Hibbert (the first of many military roles he would play) in James Whale's screen version of R.C. Sherriff's sardonic anti-war play Journey's End (1930). He made a dozen more films in Hollywood, including Three Faces East (1930), starring Erich Von Stroheim as a German spy operating as a butler in Bushell's household, Five Star Final (1931) in which Bushell was one of those victimised by a ruthless tabloid expose, Allan Dwan's Chances (1931), as an army officer who loves the same girl as his brother (Douglas Fairbanks Jr), Vanity Fair (1932) with Myrna Loy as Becky Sharp, and the silent star Pola Negri's first talkie, A Woman Commands (1932).

He returned to England in 1932 to continue his acting career, his prolific film roles including a naval officer in The Midshipmaid (1932) with Jessie Matthews, the romantic lead in the Karloff horror film The Ghoul (1933), a friend to hero Leslie Howard in an acclaimed version of The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), a secret agent who helps British spy Vivien Leigh in Dark Journey (1937), and the conceited star football player who is poisoned during a match in Thorold Dickinson's enjoyable Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939), which featured the Arsenal football team.

Bushell's own sporting prowess surfaced again in 1939 when, while appearing with the Malvern Festival Players, he was part of their cricket team against the Stratford Festival Players and scored 112 not out. After service in the Second World War commanding a squadron of the Guards Armoured Division, during which he met and married his second wife Anne (his first marriage had been dissolved in 1935), Bushell returned to acting, but also moved to the production side of the business.

Forming a close personal and business relationship with Laurence Olivier, he was associate producer on Olivier's Oscar-winning film of Hamlet (1948), and later functioned as associate director on both Richard III (1965) and The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). This meant overseeing the scenes in which Olivier himself appeared, though according to Colin Clark's diaries The Prince, The Showgirl And Me (1995), Bushell "couldn't direct traffic . . . but Sir Laurence needs a chum to guard his rear, as it were, and it is a great joy to have Tony around."

The affable and companionable Bushell was always popular with his fellow workers. In 1949 he made his first film as a director, The Angel With A Trumpet, in which he also acted. A remake of a German film Der Engel mit der Posaune, its tale of a Viennese piano- making family through three generations was considered somewhat ponderous, while his next effort The Long Dark Hall (1951), a thriller produced by Bushell and co-directed with Reginald Beck made little impression despite the star team Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer. His last feature as a director was The Terror of the Tongs (1961).

Three of his more sympathetic roles on screen - a colonel in charge of bomb disposals in Powell and Pressburger's The Small Back Room (1948), the urbanely devious British Minister who misleadsthe enemy in the same team's Battle of the River Plate (1956) and a kindly brigadier helping pilot Dirk Bogarde who has secretly married a Japanese girl in Ralph Thomas's The Wind Cannot Read (1958) - were particularly impressive, and he was perfectly cast as Captain of the Carpathia, endeavouring to reach the sinking Titanic in Roy Baker's A Night To Remember (1958).

He was associate director on The Red Beret (1953), Hell Below Zero (1954) and Bhowani Junction (1956), all this serving as apprenticeship for his entry into television, where besides acting in many plays and series he produced the fondly remembered Sir Francis Drake series (1961-62) - 26 stirring episodes with Terence Morgan and Jean Kent as Drake and Queen Elizabeth - and directed episodes of The Saint. His television acting roles included the commander who inspires four former wartime colleagues to reunite in a fight against injustice in the opening episode of the series The Four Just Men (1959) and the memorably malevolent and pig-headed colonel in the chilling Quatermass And The Pit (1967). one of the best of all television's sci-fi thrillers (far superior to its film translation). After retirement, Anthony Bushell became a director of the Monte Carlo Golf Club and maintained an active and jovial social life.

Anthony Bushell, actor, director and producer: born Westerham, Kent 19 May 1904; twice married, first 1928 Zelma O'Neal (marriage dissolved 1935); died Oxford 2 April 1997.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker