Lewis Gilbert CBE (6 March 1920 – 23 February 2018) was a British film director, producer and screenwriter, who directed more than 40 films during six decades; among them such varied titles as Reach for the Sky (1956), Sink the Bismarck! (1960), Alfie (1966), Educating Rita (1983) and Shirley Valentine (1989), as well as three James Bond films: You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979).
6 March 1920|
Hackney, London, England
23 February 2018 (aged 97)|
|Occupation||Film director, producer and screenwriter|
(m. 1951; d. 2005)
Lewis Gilbert was born in Hackney, London, to a second-generation family of music hall performers, and spent his early years travelling with his parents, Ada (Griver), who was of Jewish descent, and George Gilbert, and watching the shows from the wings. He first performed on stage at the age of five, when asked to drive a trick car around the stage. This pleased the audience, so this became the end of his parents' act. When travelling on trains, his parents frequently hid him in the luggage rack, to avoid paying a fare for him. His father contracted tuberculosis when he was a young man. He died aged 34, when Gilbert was seven.
As a child actor in films in the 1920s and 1930s, he was the breadwinner for his family, his mother was a film extra, and he had an erratic formal education. In 1933, at the age of 13, he had a role in Victor Hanbury and John Stafford's Dick Turpin, and at age 17 a small uncredited role in The Divorce of Lady X (1938) opposite Laurence Olivier. Alexander Korda offered to send him to RADA, but Gilbert chose to study direction instead, assisting Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939).
When the Second World War started, he joined the Royal Air Force's film unit, where he worked on various documentary films. He was eventually seconded to the First Motion Picture Unit of the U.S. Army Air Forces, where his commanding officer was William Keighley, an American film director, who allowed Gilbert to take on much of his film-making work.
After the war, he continued to write and direct documentary shorts for Gaumont British, before entering low budget feature film production. Gilbert made his name as a director in the 1950s and 1960s with a series of successful films, often working as the film's writer and producer as well. These films were often based on true stories from the Second World War. Examples include Reach for the Sky (1956) (based on the life of air ace Douglas Bader), Carve Her Name with Pride (1958) (the story of SOE agent Violette Szabo) and Sink the Bismarck! (1960).
Gilbert directed Alfie (1966) starring Michael Caine. Gilbert's wife Hylda discovered the play by Bill Naughton when she visited the hair salon and sat next to an actress who was in a production. Upon seeing the play, Hylda urged Gilbert to make it into a film. Gilbert used the technique of having the lead character speak directly to the viewer, a technique he later also used in Shirley Valentine (1989). Gilbert said Alfie was only made because the low budget was "the sort of money Paramount executives normally spend on cigar bills". The film won the Jury Special Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and was nominated for five Academy Awards including best picture. Gilbert was also nominated for a Golden Globe for best director.
In 1967, Gilbert was chosen to direct Lionel Bart's musical of Oliver! but contracted to another project had to pull out and recommended Carol Reed who took over. "It was the lowest point in my life," said Gilbert. "I'd developed Oliver! with Lionel Bart. I had to do The Adventurers instead... While doing this film, I signed to do The Godfather. Because of their financial problems, Paramount could only find $2m to make it. I said it needed $7m". So instead Gilbert made Friends.
Although known for character dramas, Gilbert directed three of the James Bond films. After some reluctance, he was persuaded by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli to direct You Only Live Twice (1967). Gilbert returned to the series in the 1970s to make The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979).
In the 1980s he returned to more small-scale dramas with film versions of Willy Russell's plays Educating Rita (1983) and Shirley Valentine (1989). Gilbert also directed the film Stepping Out (1991).
Gilbert was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1997 Birthday Honours for services to the film industry. In 2001, Gilbert was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute, the highest accolade in the British film industry.
In June 2010 he appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs. In it he said that The Adventurers was a disaster, and that he should never have made it. On working with Orson Welles on Ferry to Hong Kong, he said that it was: "dreadful, it was my nightmare film. It was a dreadful film, and everything was wrong with it; principally him [Welles]." He also said that his biggest mistake was failing to direct the film version of the musical Oliver!. Its composer Lionel Bart had assured Gilbert that nobody else would do the film, but Gilbert was contractually committed to Paramount to make a film (that he has since refused to name), which caused him to withdraw from the project.
All My Flashbacks: The Autobiography of Lewis Gilbert Sixty Years a Film Director was published by Reynolds & Hearn in 2010.
|1945||The Ten Year Plan||Yes||Yes||documentary about the building of pre-fabricated houses.|
|1946||Arctic Harvest||Yes||Documentary about cod-fishing in the Arctic and the production of cod liver oil.|
|1947||World Economic Geography: Fishing Grounds of the World||Yes||also known as Sailors Do Care, documentary about the British and international fishing industry.|
|1948||The Little Ballerina||Yes||Yes|
|1949||Under One Roof||Yes||UN sponsored documentary about the students from different countries who attend Loughborough Engineering College.|
|1950||Once a Sinner||Yes|
|1951||There Is Another Sun||Yes|
|Time Gentlemen, Please!||Yes|
|Johnny on the Run||Yes||Yes|
|1954||The Good Die Young||Yes||Yes|
|The Sea Shall Not Have Them||Yes||Yes|
|1955||Cast a Dark Shadow||Yes|
|1956||Reach for the Sky||Yes||Yes|
|1957||The Admirable Crichton||Yes||Yes|
|1958||Carve Her Name with Pride||Yes||Yes|
|A Cry from the Streets||Yes|
|1959||Ferry to Hong Kong||Yes||Yes|
|1960||Light Up the Sky!||Yes||Yes|
|Sink the Bismarck!||Yes|
|1961||The Greengage Summer||Yes|
|1964||The 7th Dawn||Yes|
|1966||Alfie||Yes||Yes||Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Remake done in 2004 starring Jude Law.|
|1967||You Only Live Twice||Yes|
|1974||Paul and Michelle||Yes||Yes|
|1976||Seven Nights in Japan||Yes||Yes|
|1977||The Spy Who Loved Me||Yes|
|1985||Not Quite Paradise||Yes||Yes|
|2002||Before You Go||Yes|
- Maslin, Janet (20 July 1977). "Movie Review – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): 'Spy Who Loved' A Bit Long on Bond". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- "Lewis Gilbert (1920)", BFI screenonline Retrieved 14 April 2012
- Olivier Holmey (5 March 2018), "Lewis Gilbert: Bond director behind era-defining British films Alfie, Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita", The Independent. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
- A.H. Weiler (12 February 1960). "Movie Review - Of Men and Ships". The New York Times.
- Bosley Crowther (25 August 1966). "Screen: 'Alfie,' Story of a Cockney Anti-Hero, Begins Run Here:Movie More Effective Than Stage Play Other Features Open 'Batman' Has Debut". The New York Times.
- Halliwell's Film & Video Guide 2000, 1999, London: HarperCollins, p15
- "The 39th Academy Awards - 1967".
- Nicholas Jones (9 March 2000). "Of human Bondage". The Guardian.
- Bosley Crowther (14 June 1967). "Movie Review - Screen: Sayonara, 007:Connery Is at It Again as Whatshisname". The New York Times.
- Ebert, Roger. "You Only Live Twice Movie Review (1967) - Roger Ebert".
- Vincent Canby (29 June 1979). "Movie Review - Screen: 'Moonraker' Puts Bond in Orbit:Old, Old Friends". The New York Times.
- Janet Maslin (21 September 1983). "Movie Review - Film: 'Educating Rita,' school days". The New York Times.
- Caryn James (30 August 1989). "Movie Review - Review/Film; Shirley Valentine Talks With Others". The New York Times.
- Ebert, Roger. "Shirley Valentine Movie Review (1989) - Roger Ebert".
- Stephen Holden (4 October 1991). "Movie Review - Review/Film; Turning Klutzes Into Tap Dancers". The New York Times.
- Gritten, David (3 October 1991). "Lewis Gilbert Taps Minnelli's Talents for 'Stepping Out' : Movies: On heels of 'Shirley Valentine,' the director wraps his third film that caters to women--on the set and in the audience". Los Angeles Times.
- "No. 54794". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 1997. p. 8.
- Gore, Peter (20 January 2010). "Gillian Gore obituary". The Guardian.
- "The Film Programme", BBC Radio 4, 26 March 2010
- Andrew Pulver (27 February 2018). "Spy Who Loved Me director Lewis Gilbert dies aged 97". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
- Alex Ritman (27 February 2018). "Lewis Gilbert, Famed U.K. Director of 'Alfie' and 3 James Bond Films, Dies at 97". The Hollywood Reporter.
- BFI Film database: The Ten Year Plan Retrieved 14 April 2012
- BFI Film database: Arctic Harvest Retrieved 14 April 2012
- BFI Film database: World Economic Geography: Fishing Grounds of the World Retrieved 14 April 2012
- BFI Film database: Under One Roof Retrieved 14 April 2012