Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Guy Hamilton Passes On

Guy Hamilton, perhaps best known for directing the James Bond movies Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), died on April 20 2016 at the age of 93.

Guy Hamilton was born on September 16 1922 in Paris. His father was a press attaché to the British Embassy in France. When he was still a lad he became a fan of the cinema and as a teenager worked as a clapperboard boy at the Victorine Studios in Nice among other jobs. He served as an apprentice to the director Julien Duvivier. When World War II started he returned to England and worked for the film library at Paramount News. He eventually joined the British Royal Navy. He served as part of the 15th Motor Gunboat Flotilla.

It was following the war that he started working as an assistant director, his first credit being They Made Me a Fugitive in 1947. In the late Forties and the early Fifties he served as an assistant director on Carol Reed's films The Fallen Idol (1948), The Third Man (1949), and Outcast of the Islands (1951), as well as on the films Anna Karenina (1948), Britannia Mews (1949), The Angel with the Trumpet (1950), State Secret (1950), The African Queen (1951), and Home at Seven (1952).

Guy Hamilton made his directorial debut with The Ringer in 1952. In the Fifties he directed the films The Intruder (1953), An Inspector Calls (1954), The Colditz Story (1955), Charley Moon (1956), Manuela (1957), The Devil's Disciple (1959), and A Touch of Larceny (1959). He co-wrote the screenplays for The Colditz Story, Manuela, and A Touch of Larceny.

It was in the Sixties that Guy Hamilton first became involved with the James Bond franchise. He was offered the chance to direct Dr. No (1962), but turned it down as he was not able to then leave Britain. Fortunately, he was able to accept the assignment for Goldfinger (1964). Goldfinger was not the only spy movie Mr. Hamilton directed during the Sixties. He also directed the Harry Palmer movie Funeral in Berlin (1965). Guy Hamilton also directed the controversial The Party's Over. Ultimately the film was so severely cut at the request of the British Board of Film Censors that Guy Hamilton asked to have his name removed from the film in protest. During the Sixties Guy Hamilton also directed the war movies The Best of Enemies (1961), Man in the Middle (1964), and Battle of Britain (1969).

In the Seventies Guy Hamilton returned to the James Bond franchise with Diamonds Are Forever (1971). He directed two more Bond films, Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man With the Golden Gun (1974). In the Seventies he also directed Force 10 from Navarone (1978) and Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd (1980).  In the Eighties Guy Hamilton directed Evil Under the Sun (1982), Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985), and Try This One for Size (1989).

Arguably Guy Hamilton, along with screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn, invented what we now know as James Bond movies. While Dr. No and From Russia With Love had been released before it, arguably it was Goldfinger that set the pace for the entire franchise. The film featured more gadgets than the previous two Bond movies, as well as more repartee between Bond and M and a greater role for weapons master Q. It also introduced the use of a theme song over the opening credits ("Goldfinger" sung by Dame Shirley Bassey). Guy Hamilton also sped up the action from the previous films and essentially made everything in the film bigger than life. In the end Goldfinger would serve as a template for nearly every Bond movie made since. It should be little wonder that Mr. Hamilton would go on to direct more Bond movies, including two that are, in my humble opinion, among the best of the series (Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun).

Of course, Guy Hamilton directed much more than James Bond movies. He also directed Funeral in Berlin, one of the best spy movies of the Sixties. He had a talent for directing war movies. Both The Colditz Story and Battle of Britain are classics in the genre, while his other war films hold up very well. Guy Hamilton had a knack for directing action films, to the point that even when a particular film wasn't that good (Diamonds Are Forever being a perfect example), they were worth watching for the action scenes alone. Ultimately Guy Hamilton was the director who helped make "James Bond movies" JAMES BOND MOVIES and one who directed some of the best action films of the Fifties and Sixties.

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