Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A tribute to director Lewis Gilbert

Taken from my Obit Patrol site, this brief career sketch brings up a varied number of good films.

Distinctive director of films such as Alfie (1966) and Educating Rita -- via the Hollywood Reporter. He was the son of music hall performers, who -- seriously -- used to stash him in the luggage rack of the train to avoid paying his fare. He got his start as a child actor in 1934. As a filmmaker, he began as an assistant to Hitchcock on Jamaica Inn (1939). He will never be deemed a "great director," as his batting average is too low. However, he was very good at genre films (Sink the Bismarck!, 1960; Damn the Defiant!, 1962).

He was adept at stage adaptations, winning greatest acclaim for two such films -- Alfie (1966), Michael Caine's breakout picture, as well as Educating Rita (1983), which revived Caine's critical status, and made Julie Walters' career as well. He could work magic with impossibly large set pieces. He did one of my favorite Bond films, You Only Live Twice (1967) -- and he did both the best and the worst Roger Moore Bonds -- The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) followed immediately by the awful Moonraker (1979). He scored one last time with one more stage adaptations, the lovely Shirley Valentine, featuring a great performance by Pauline Collins.

One of my first impressions of the power of film was the night we moved to Denver in 1967, when we parked across from the Wadsworth Drive-In and I saw, soundless, You Only Live Twice on an enormous screen freestanding in the dark. I was impressed. Lewis Gilbert was versatile and capable. I really did enjoy his work.

Sink the Bismarck! carries the seeming imprimatur of Edward R. Murrow, features an interoffice romance, contains toy battleships, and of course includes Kenneth More and Michael Hordern.

Broadsides! Floggings! Press gangs! With Alec Guinness, a young Dirk Bogarde, and Anthony Quayle "as the leader of the MUTINY!"

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