Shaughnessy, Alfred 1916–2005

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Shaughnessy, Alfred 1916–2005

(Alfred James Shaughnessy)

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born May 19, 1916, in London, England; died November 2, 2005, in Plymouth, England. Film and television director, producer, and author. Shaughnessy had a successful career in television and movies, but was best known for his work on the landmark British Broadcasting Corporation series Upstairs, Downstairs. The grandson of the first baron of Shaughnessy and a descendant of U.S. President James Polk, he grew up in a wealthy family that regularly fraternized with English royalty. Education was a difficult matter for Shaughnessy, however, and he dropped out of the Royal Military College. This was followed by a short and unhappy career with Nathan & Rosselli on the London Stock Exchange. Much more interested in the entertainment field than in business, he tried his hand as a theater manager when he was just twenty years of age. When this endeavor failed as well, he became a publicity agent for the theater. With the onset of World War II, he enlisted in the army, and in 1944 participated in the Battle of Normandy as part of the Guards Armoured Division. With Germany's surrender, Shaughnessy found a fortunate assignment organizing orchestras to entertain both Allied troops and German prisoners. After the war, he was able to secure a job as a writer for Ealing Studios. Thus began his career in film and television. Some of his early directing efforts included Cat Girl (1957) and 6.5 Special (1958), the latter featuring Petula Clark. He continued to work in film, theater, and radio for many years, but did not catch his big break until he became involved with Upstairs, Downstairs. The show was originally conceived as a Victorian-era television program, but Shaughnessy reworked it to set it in Edwardian England. It ran for five years in the early 1970s. Shaughnessy directed and produced episodes, and wrote about a third of the scripts, earning two Emmy Award nominations and a Television Critics Circle Award. After Upstairs, Downstairs, Shaughnessy was involved with other well-received television shows, including By the Sword Divided (1983) and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984), for which he was praised for his attention to historical detail. In more recent years, he penned the novels Dearest Enemy (1991) and Hugo (1994), edited a collection of his mother's correspondence, and published two autobiographies: Both Ends of the Candle (1978) and A Confession in Writing (1997). His last work was a play, Old Herbaceous, an adaptation of a work by Reginald Arkell.



Shaughnessy, Alfred, Both Ends of the Candle, P. Owen, 1978.

Shaughnessy, Alfred, A Confession in Writing, Tabb House, 1997.


Independent (London, England), November 7, 2005, p. 56.

Times (London, England), December 26, 2005, p. 68.