HUGHES, Kenneth Graham   [1922 - 2001]

The Liverpool-born film director and screenwriter Ken Hughes directed over forty films in a thirty-year career beginning in the early 1950s. His biggest commercial success was undoubtedly the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang of which Hughes said  (it) made a lot of money, but that doesn't really make me feel any better about it. On the other hand, I've made pictures that got awards at Berlin and places, and didn't make any money, and that doesn't make me feel any better either".

He was born on 19th January 1922, the son of Clement Graham Hughes and his wife Edith (née Kenny) at 53 Yates Street L8. His father, a salesman, had been a cadet in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Shortly after his birth the family moved away from Liverpool and he was brought up and educated in south-west London.

Ken Hughes was interested in making movies from an early age and using a camera given to him by his father when he was 14 he made a short film which won an Amateur Cine World magazine award. He had a spell As a projectionist in the Prince of Wales cinema in Harrow Road and at 16 joined the BBC where he became a sound engineer. His war service with the RAF saw him gain his first experience of film -making when he was transferred to a film unit producing training films. After the war, back with the BBC, he made a number of documentaries for which he wrote most of the screenplays, a practice he sustained throughout his career.

His first big-screen directing role was a 1952 ‘B’ movie Wide Boy, a crime thriller starring Sidney Tafler. His career peaked in the 1960s, working with a host of major stars in films such as The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960, Peter Finch and James Mason), The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963, Anthony Newley) Of Human Bondage (1964, Laurence Harvey and Kim Novak) Drop Dead Darling (1965 Tony Curtis) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1966, Dick Van Dyke) and Cromwell (1970, Richard Harris and Alec Guinness). Hughes rated Cromwell the “best thing I’ve ever done”.

He ran into financial difficulties in the early 1970S, a fate he ascribed to paying maintenance to two wives and an inability to reduce his expenses. He did not work in the United States until 1978 when he directed Mae West in the musical comedy Sextette, which also featured Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Alice Cooper. His final film was the ‘slasher’ movie Night School (1981).
Hughes was a prolific screenwriter for film and television and also wrote a number of novels.

Hughes married Charlotte Epstein in 1946, the marriage ending in divorce in 1957. From 1970 to 1976 he was married to Cherry Price, having one daughter Melinda who became an opera singer. In 1982 Hughes remarried his first wife Charlotte. He died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in Los Angeles on 28th April 2001.

53 Yates Street L8

The Hughes family home for the first few month's of Ken Hughes' life.


There is a comprehensive entry for Hughes in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The Wikipedia entry is reasonably detailed and IMDB gives a full listing of his work.