Henry Cornelius’s biography, fact, career, awards, net worth and life story

Intro South African film director, producer and screenwriter
Was Film director
Film producer
Film editor
From United Kingdom
South Africa
Type Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male

18 August 1913, Cape Town


2 May 1958, London
(aged 44 years)

Henry Cornelius (born Owen Henry Cornelius 18 August 1913 – 2 May 1958) was a South African-born film director, producer and screenwriter. He directed five films between 1949 and 1958.

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Cornelius left his native South Africa to work under Max Reinhardt in the Berlin theatrical world. After Adolf Hitler came to power he went to Paris to produce and direct plays until he was selected by Rene Clair to be an English speaking assistant editor when Clair went to England to make The Ghost Goes West.

Cornelius stayed on with Alexander Korda’s London Films to edit several of their classic films such as The Four Feathers and The Lion Has Wings. The start of World War II led him to return to South Africa to be Deputy Director of the South African Government Film unit where he produced and directed documentaries.

When Cornelius returned to England in 1943, his friend Alberto Cavalcanti brought him to Ealing Studios. Cornelius became an associate producer and screenwriter of several Ealing classics such as Hue and Cry and It Always Rains on Sunday. He made his directing debut with Passport to Pimlico.

The film’s success with both the public and the critics led him to ask for a pay rise which Ealing refused. He left Ealing to produce his own film The Galloping Major. That film’s failure led Cornelius to return to Ealing studios with the idea for Genevieve. Ealing head Michael Balcon wasn’t keen on someone quitting Ealing returning to their fold, but recommended him and his film to be produced by the Rank Organisation.

Cornelius died whilst making Law and Disorder, with the film finished by Charles Crichton.


  • Passport to Pimlico (1949)
  • The Galloping Major (1951)
  • Genevieve (1953)
  • I Am a Camera (1955)
  • Next to No Time (1958)


  • The Ghost Goes West (1935)
  • Forget Me Not (1936)