Charles Chaplin was the first and the greatest international star of the American silent comic cinema. He was also the twentieth century's first media ?superstar,? the first artistic creator and popularized creature of our global culture. His face, onscreen antics, and offscreen scandals were disseminated around the globe by new media that knew no geographical or linguistic boundaries. But more than this, Chaplin was the first acknowledged artistic genius of the cinema, recognized as such by a young and influential generation of writers and artists including George Bernard Shaw, H.G.
Nicolas Roeg is a visual trickster who plays havoc with conventional screen narratives. Choosing an oblique storytelling formula, he riddles his plots with ambiguous characters, blurred genres, distorted chronologies, and open-ended themes to invite warring interpretations.
Though nearly forty before directing his first feature, Clayton had a solid professional grounding as Associate Producer. His credits, though few, have been mostly major productions. Though he disclaims consciously auteurial choices, his films evince a heavily recognisable temperament.
British director Ken Russell was forty-two when his film of D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love placed him in the ranks of movie directors of international stature. For more than a decade before that, however, British television viewers had been treated to a succession of his skilled TV biographies of great artists like Frederick Delius (Song of Summer) and Isadora Duncan. Russell has always gravitated toward the past in choosing subjects for filming because, as he says, ?topics of the moment pass and change.
"I make films to come to terms with my family history.... If there had been no suffering, there would have been no films." Hardly the most unusual of artistic subjects, but for Terence Davies it has been the source of perhaps the most emotionally and technically distinctive films in recent British film history.
John Schlesinger began his professional career by making short documentaries for the BBC. His first major venture in the cinema was a documentary for British Transport called Terminus, about twenty-four hours at Waterloo Station, which won him an award at the Venice Film Festival. Schlesinger's documentaries attracted the attention of producer Joseph Janni; together they formed a creative association which has included several of Schlesinger's British films, beginning with A Kind of Loving, which won the Grand Prize at the Berlin Film Festival.
An ancient Chinese encyclopedia, according to Borges, divides animals into ?(a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (0 fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they are mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's hair brush, (1) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.? One is tempted to add, (o) those featured in Peter Greenaway's films.
Although he is primarily remembered as the director of the cult horror films Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, and The Bride of Frankenstein, James Whale contributed much more to the cinema. He also handled such stylish and elegant productions as Waterloo Bridge and One More River, which had little critical impact when they were first released and are, unfortunately, largely unknown today.
In a career spanning just over fifty years (1925-76), Hitchcock completed fifty-three feature films, twenty-three in the British period, thirty in the American. Through the early British films we can trace the evolution of his professional/artistic image, the development of both the Hitchcock style and the Hitchcock thematic. His third film (and first big commercial success), The Lodger, was crucial in establishing him as a maker of thrillers, but it was not until the mid-1950s that his name became consistently identified with that genre.
There is a trajectory that emerges from the shape of David Lean's career, and it is a misleading one. Lean first achieved fame as a director of seemingly intimate films, closely based on plays of Noel Coward. His first directorial credit was shared with Coward, for In Which We Serve. In the 1960s he was responsible for extraordinarily ambitious projects, for an epic cinema of grandiose effects, difficult location shooting, and high cultural, even literary, pretention. But, in fact, Lean's essential approach to the movies never changed.
In a 1958 essay entitled ?Get Out and Push,? Lindsay Anderson expressed his approach to working in the cinema.
Ken Loach is not only Britain's most political filmmaker, he is also its most censored?and the two are not entirely unconnected.
"Film making is the process of turning money into light and then back into money again." John Boorman's neat epigram will probably haunt him for the rest of his filmmaking days, not simply because it is so tidy a formulation, but because the tensions it articulates have played such a prominent part in his own career.
Carol Reed came to films from the theater, where he worked as an assistant to Edgar Wallace. He served his apprenticeship in the film industry first as a dialogue director, and then graduated to the director's chair via a series of low-budget second features.
Sally Potter?s career so far exemplifies the best and the worst features of British film culture: the best in its imaginativeness, inventiveness, and biting integrity; the worst in the extreme parsimony, both financial and critical, in which it existed. Potter?s work in performance art, dance, and at the London Film Makers? Co-op was both culturally and financially ?on the margins.? Aware of these categories of ?avant-garde? or ?independent,? ?feminist? or ?experimental,? Potter has in quite serious ways never accepted them. Quite early on she spoke of herself as working within ?avant-garde
Jill Craigie was not, as is sometimes claimed, the first British woman film director. That distinction should probably go to Dinah Shurey, director of patriotic features in the 1920s, followed by Mary Field, who made documentaries, children?s films, and the occasional short feature in the 1930s. But Craigie was the first British woman to direct features that gained widespread distribution and publicity: The Way We Live is said to have had as many column inches devoted to it at the time of its release as Olivier?s near-contemporary Henry V. And she was certainly the first B
Lotte Reiniger?s career as an independent filmmaker is among the longest and most singular in film history, spanning some 60 years (1919-79) of actively creating silhouette animation films. Her The Adventures of Prince Achmed is the world?s first feature-length animation film, made when she was in her mid-twenties and winning considerable acclaim.
Silhouette animation existed before 1919, but Reiniger was its preeminent practitioner, transforming a technically and esthetically bland genre to a recognized art form. Since childhood she had excelled at freehand cut-outs and shad
Carmen Dillon was born in 1908 in London. As did so many art directors, she originally studied architecture. Dillon worked as a set dresser and art director on many pictures for Two Cities and Rank, and for nearly a quarter of a century she was the only woman art director working in English films.
Early in her career Dillon collaborated with the great British art directors Paul Sheriff and Roger Furse. She assisted Sheriff on Olivier?s Henry V, and the sets of Olivier?s Hamlet were by Dillon with design by Furse. These two pictures were very significant in the histor
Alma Reville?s career is difficult to assess, since during most of it she worked exclusively on the films of her husband, director Alfred Hitchcock. Her contribution to his work fluctuated during the course of their 50-year marriage. It was sometimes that of a professional screenwriter or consultant, more often that of a supportive and knowledgeable wife.
Reville entered the British film industry even earlier than her husband, whose career spanned both the silent and sound eras. From the age of 16, Reville worked as a cutter (editor), first at the London Film Company, then at Famous P
Elinor Glyn was one of Hollywood?s most famous screenwriters in the 1920s, when she was known for her bold and sexy scenarios. She began her writing career as a romantic novelist, and in 1908 when her immensely popular novel Three Weeks was published, she earned a salacious notoriety in the United States. The novel scandalized conservatives at the time for featuring a married woman?s passionate and illicit love affair?conducted atop a tiger skin rug. During the 1910s and 1920s, Glyn enjoyed continued fame for her daring novels and expert advice on the subjects of love, femininity,
Shirley Russell rose to prominence as a costume designer during the 1960s and 1970s working with her then-husband, the director Ken Russell. Her work remained precisely detailed and delicately stylized even as that of her husband became more extreme and outrageous. In Women in Love, Shirley Russell?s costumes are brilliantly accurate not only in rendering the Edwardian period in general, but in sketching crucial class distinctions and even in lampooning characters? social aspirations. The clearest indication of her talents is in the differences of garb between the Brangwens and the
Those who think that there were no women producers in the old Hollywood studio system have perhaps never heard of the remarkable Joan Harrison. A wise woman who always made the most of her opportunities, the young Harrison took a job as secretary to Alfred Hitchcock, with a reduction in salary and status from her former position in an advertising department of a London newspaper.
Among the directors active in the British film industry during the 1950s were David Lean, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, Carol Reed, Robert Hamer, Charles Crichton, Henry Cornelius, Alexander MacKendrick, John and Roy Boulting, Basil Dearden, Anthony Asquith, Ronald Neame, Guy Hamilton, Roy Ward Baker, Brian Desmond Hurst, Michael Anderson, Ralph Thomas . . . and Wendy Toye.
Toye was not the only woman to direct a British film during the decade. Muriel Box (who, in the mid-1940s, won an Academy Award for co-scripting The Seventh Veil with her then-husband, Sydney Box) ma
Throughout her career, Beeban Kidron has made films that explore the need for individuals to be who they are, and take and maintain control of their lives. They might be young heterosexual women (Antonia & Jane) or older heterosexual women (Used People), gay women (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) or gay men (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar).
To date, two of Kidron?s best films?as well as those that established her international reputation?are among her first: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Antonia & Jane
Joy Batchelor is one of the rare pioneer female animators, working in a discipline historically dominated by men. She began her career as a commercial artist and, in the late 1930s, met Hungarian-born animator John Halas, whom she was to join in a full professional partnership. Batchelor and Halas, who later were married, maintained control of their work by establishing, in 1940, their own production company, Halas & Batchelor Cartoon Films. Over the next five decades it was to become one of the most active animation houses in Europe, with Batchelor and Halas producing an extraordinary
Perhaps the best understanding of Brianne Murphy?s career as a cinematographer does not lie in a study of her camera work as such, because she does not seem to have had a full opportunity to explore her creative abilities. Even in 1996, Murphy?who has often used non-gender-specific
If women filmmakers are supposed to be preoccupied with making the kinds of movies that it is assumed women only want to see?touchy-feely dramas, for example, or romantic soapers, female bonding stories and explorations of budding female sexuality?then Antonia Bird is one woman filmmaker who has little interest in making ?women?s films.? She is fully capable of directing action scenes, and one can see her helming a special effects-laden, mega-budget epic. Only that film would not focus solely on explosions and glitz. Amid the mayhem would be complex characters whose deep conflicts are explo
Pratibha Parmar?s films reflect her experiences as a woman of the Asian and African diaspora, as a lesbian, and as a political and cultural activist. She attributes her desire to be a filmmaker to the anger and rage kindled by her first playground encounter with ?Paki-bashing? schoolmates. Her resistance to being defined as a ?marginal? person, as someone who can be pigeonholed according to race, gender, or sexual orientation, is a constant theme in her work.
Parmar was one of the founding members of the first black lesbian group in Britain in 1984 and discovered within that group a s
Muriel Box was a true craftswoman of the cinema, as director as well as screenwriter. Her prolific output in both roles spanned more than 30 years: the three decades that saw the rise and fall of British cinema production through the documentary movement of the 1930s, the boom years of war and its aftermath, the precarious continuity of the 1950s, then decline in the 1960s.
Box?s apprenticeship as a writer was served as a playwright. Always a popular storyteller rather than an ?artist,? she aimed her plays mainly at repertory groups and amateur dramatic societies. She became a sought-