Lewis Gilbert


Suggested Films:


The sea shall not have them (1954)
Carve her name with pride (1958)
Alfie (1965)
The Spy who loved me (1977)
Educating Rita (1983)
Shirley Valentine (1989)

Lewis Gilbert was born in London on 6 March 1920. He had been born into a theatrical family – mainly in the music halls. His first role was as a child actor in a version of Turpin (1933). He had by this stage met Korda who had suggested an acting path and was keen for the young man to go to RADA. Instead Gilbert had a interest in directing and was then involved in the Hitchcock film Jamaica Inn (1939).

When war came he joined the RAF and directed several documentaries (as did many British directors at the time) – in Gilberts case was on attachment to the US. At the end of the war, he continued to write and direct documentary shorts for Gaumont-British.

The key film for Gilbert was to be Emergency Call (1952). The film itself was fairly unremarkable but it was to be the writer who Gilbert Met that would change his destiny in a number of ways. Vernon Harris would be someone who would write scripts, adapt screenplays and stay as a friend to Gilbert for the next forty years.

One of the collaborations would be the famous biography of Douglas Bader in 'Reach for the Sky' (1956) with Kenneth More playing the lead. Two years later it would be another documentary, this time on the life of Violet Scazbo in 'Carve Her Name With Pride' (1958). Both this films now locked down Gilbert’s critical status as a British director who could not only bring in the bucks but also deliver serious films in an interesting way. In the sixties the adaptations continued as he delivered ‘Sink the Bismark’ (1960,) 'Light up the Sky' (1960) and 'Damn the Defiant' (1962).

Then his career took a turn from very militaristic movies to the highly successful 'Alfie' (1965). This was the first of a number of adaptations of stage plays that brought Gilbert commercial and critical success in the latter part of his career. The film received multiple Oscar nominations, most notably for Michael Caine, a then unknown name in Hollywood.

The next year he went on to deliver the first of this three bond films and as far as I’m aware is the only director to have directed more than one ‘James Bond’ actor. Of the three movies which he delivered to the screen I would say on a personal level that my favourite is ‘The Spy who loved me’ (1977). He proved early in his career that he could handle the big budget – big action projects and this was to be the case in the latter stages of his career. Two years later he brought to screen the last of his bond movies, the highly successful ‘Moonraker’ (1979).

In the later stages of an extensive career he brought another screen play to life in the form of the highly critically acclaimed Educating Rita (1983). This brought BAFTA success to both Caine, Walters and Gilbert. Later in the eighties he also directly the harmless but enjoyable ‘Not quite Jerusalem' (1986) with the lovely Joanna Pacula. He finished this decade with Shirley Valentine (1989) again getting the film nominated for Oscars and Bafta’s (Pauline Collins winning the best actress award). I simply can’t believe they overlooked Tom Conti’s.

In 2001, Lewis Gilbert was Awarded a BFI Fellowship, only the 53rd to have ever been awarded. “The accolade is bestowed upon individuals from around the world in recognition of their outstanding contribution to film and television culture. Previous recipients have included such diverse talents as Orson Welles, Fred Zinnemrmann, Akira Kurosawa, Clint Eastwood and Elizabeth Taylor.”

Lewis is still making films (his last one came out in 2002) at the good age on 82 if my maths holds out….














Lewis Gilbert, british film, british director, british movie