Friday, March 2, 2018

Godspeed Lewis Gilbert

Lewis Gilbert, who directed such films as Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), Sink the Bismark! (1960), Alfie (1966), Educating Rita (1983), and three James Bond films, died on February 23 at the age of 97.

Lewis Gilbert was born on March 6 1920 in London. He came from a family of music hall performers. He travelled with his parents to various performances while young and took to the stage himself when he was only five years old. As a youth he appeared in bit parts in such movies as Dick Turpin (1934), Good Morning, Boys (1937), The Divorce of Lady X (1938), and Room for Two (1940).

Despite acting in films, young Mr. Gilbert was more interested in directing. He served as an assistant to Alfred Hitchcock on Jamaica Inn (1939). During World War II he served in the Royal Air Force's film unit, working on various documentary shorts. Following the war he made such documentary shorts as "Arctic Harvest" (1946) and "Under One Roof" (1949). The first feature film he directed was Little Ballerina (1947). It was followed by Once a Sinner in 1950.

In the Fifties Lewis Gilbert directed some of his best known films. Among these were a number of World War II films, of which the most famous may have been Sink the Bismark! (1960). Among the other World War II films he directed in the Fifties were Reach for the Sky (1956) and Carve Her Name with Pride (1958). He also directed the classic British noir Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), starring Margaret Lockwood and Sir Dirk Bogarde. During the Fifties Mr. Gilbert also directed such films as Scarlet Thread (1951), There is Another Sun (1951), Emergency Call (1952), Albert, R.N. (1953), The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954), The Admirable Crichton (1957), and A Cry from the Streets (1958).  He wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for several films he directed during the decade, including Little Ballerina, Reach for the Sky, The Admirable Crichton, and Carve Her Name with Pride.

The Sixties saw Mr. Gilbert direct what may be his most famous film, Alfie (1966). He also directed the first of his three James Bond films, You Only Live Twice (1967). He also directed the films The Greengage Summer (1961), H.M.S. Defiant (1962), and The Adventurers (1970). He co-wrote the screenplay for The Adventurers.

In the Seventies Lewis Gilbert directed the films Friends (1971), Paul and Michelle (1974), Operation Daybreak (1975), Seven Nights in Japan (1976), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and Moonraker (1979). He wrote the stories for Friends and Paul and Michelle.

In the Eighties Mr. Gilbert directed one of his best known films, Educating Rita (1983), as well as the films Not Quite Paradise (1985) and Shirley Valentine (1989). In the Nineties he directed Stepping Out (1991) and Haunted (1995). In the Naughts he directed his final film, Before You Go (2002).

Lewis Gilbert was not only a very talented director, but a very versatile one as well. He was at home directing in a number of genres. He will always be well known for his World War II movies, of which he directed some of the genre's best known classics (including Sink the Bismark!). He directed one of the best British noirs, Cast a Dark Shadow. While he could direct large scale blockbusters (such as his World War II movies or the Bond films), he was also at home with smaller, more intimate films such as Educating Rita. And while Educating Rita was a somewhat light, but well-done comedy, Mr. Gilbert was also capable of directing a dark, gritty comedy such as Alfie. Over the years he directed in such wide ranging genres as historical adventure (H.M.S. Defiant), drama (Friends), and horror (Haunted). While Mr. Gilbert did direct bad films, they were few and far between. Only a few directors were as versatile or as talented as Lewis Gilbert.

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