Anthony Asquith was born to the honorable Herbert Henry Asquith, Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908-1916, and his second wife, the renowned socialite and wit Margot. Asquith had five elder siblings from his father's previous marriage, but as one of only two of Margot's five children to survive infancy, she doted on her son, giving him the enduring nickname 'Puffin'.
Always an aesthete, Asquith completed his university degree at Balliol College, Oxford, where he helped to found the Oxford Film Society. He then travelled to Los Angeles, where he stayed for six months as a guest of actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, observing Hollywood working methods and encountering many high-profile directors and stars of the time, including Charlie Chaplin, Ernst Lubitsch and Lillian Gish.
Upon his return to Great Britain, Asquith worked for Bruce Woolfe's British Instructional Films, which specialised in historical reconstructions of World War One battles and early naturalist documentaries. Embracing his knowledge of the intellectual, artistic and political cinemas of France, the USSR and Germany, as well as the more popular Hollywood conventions, he joined the London Film Society, which counted writers H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw and assorted Bloomsbury Group luminaries amongst its members.
Asquith was assigned to work on British Instructional Films' first fictional feature, Shooting Stars (1927); written by Asquith, the credits list A.V. Bramble as director but Asquith is widely regarded co-director. Working throughout the 1930s, Asquith became recognised for Pygmalion (1938), adapted for the screen by Shaw from his much-celebrated play. Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars®, it won for Best Adapted Screenplay. An artisan filmmaker, Asquith headed the British film technicians union for 30 years, and worked steadily until his final film - the star-studded adaptation of Terence Rattigan's The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964).
Anthony 'Puff' Asquith died in 1968, but his work - predominantly adaptations of the stage plays of Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and Rattigan, with whom he worked on more than 10 films - ensures that he will be remembered as one of the staunchest of British directors and film craftsmen. He is commemorated in BAFTA's annual Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music.