Cy Endfield, 80, film director and writer who was blacklisted in the U.S. and made numerous films overseas, including “Zulu” and “Sands of the Kalahari,” died April 16 of cerebral vascular disease in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, England.
Endfield had been based in the U.K. since the early ’50s, but made a last trip to his native country in 1992, when a tribute at the Telluride Film Festival sparked a revival of interest in his work.
Cyril Raker Endfield was born in Scranton, Pa., in 1914. During the ’20s, he was known as a child prodigy magician, and he was celebrated in magic circles all his life for his skill at prestidigitation. He attended Yale U. and the New Theater School in New York and was involved in theatrical work in Montreal before moving to Hollywood in 1941.
After meeting Orson Welles at a Hollywood Boulevard magic shop, Endfield got his first film industry job as an assistant at Welles’ Mercury company at the time of “The Magnificent Ambersons.”
He served during World War II with the Army Signal Corps and in 1944 began directing Passing Parade shorts for MGM.
He made his feature debut with “Gentleman Joe Palooka” in 1946 and, working on tiny budgets and usually contributing to the screenplays, followed with “Stork Bites Man” and “The Argyle Secrets.” The latter, based on an Endfield radio play, was a particularly interesting B movie in its suggestion that the U.S. government secretly brought Nazis into the country to work for the military.
After the noir crime drama “The Underworld Story,” Endfield, in 1950, made his most important American picture, “The Sound of Fury” (later retitled “Try and Get Me!”), a corrosive look at conditions on the post war homefront and a ferocious depiction of a lynch mob in action.
Endfield finished one more Hollywood picture, “Tarzan’s Savage Fury,” but his college-era radical activities resulted in his name coming before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and he left the country rather than name names.
Re-establishing himself in the U.K. and sometimes working under pseudonyms, Endfield directed more than a dozen films, including “The Limping Man,” “The Master Plan,” “Impulse,” “Child in the House,” “Hell Divers,” “Sea Fury,” “Jet Storm,” “Mysterious Island” and “Hide and Seek.”
“Zulu,” an impressive battle epic shot in South Africa that was Michael Caine’s first film, was an international success in 1964, but after his next picture, “Sands of the Kalahari,” his career faltered with “De Sade” and “Universal Soldier.” Experiencing success as an inventor, he tallied a final screenplay credit on “Zulu Dawn” in 1979.
He is survived by his wife and three daughters.