Muriel Spark's novel Memento Mori had been published in 1959 and
had immediately attracted Jack Clayton's attention as a possible film
project, partly because he admired its style and dialogue but particularly
because he related to the theme. Death and/or funeral scenes occur
frequently in Clayton's work, involving the key characters and always
carrying great weight. Even the humour of John Huston's spoof thriller,
Beat the Devil, on which Clayton was the associate producer and which
has at least an underground reputation as a cult classic, was lost on him. A
pupil and protégé of Georges Auric, Georges Delerue had come to
Clayton's attention with his score for François Truffaut's
Jules et Jim. In May 1988 Clayton was interviewed about Delerue by
the Belgian film magazine Soundtrack; in their edition of 21
September 1992, after Delerue's death, they reprinted Clayton's
This chapter provides brief details of some of the projects on which Jack
Clayton was involved but which for various reasons either never materialised
on screen or were made by someone else. The projects include A Child is
Waiting; The Looking-Glass War; Sweet Autumn; The
Walking Stick; Mary, Queen of Scots; Zaharoff Pedlar of
Death; The Tenant; lf You Could See Me Now; The
Main; Revelations; Hand-Me Downs; The Bourne
Identity and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The list also
includes One Last Glimpse; The Enchantment; Hannah;
The Last Enemy; Cold Spring Harbour; The Stone Virgin;
Augustus; Poe (The Dark Angel); The Cherry Orchard;
Revolutionary Road; Hay Fever; Casualties of War;
Massacre at Fall Creek and Silence. The chapter also reveals a
lot about Clayton and perhaps even more about the industry in which he
worked throughout his adult life.
Jack Clayton was a director of great sensitivity, intelligence and flair.
Clayton died of a heart attack in the arms of his wife on 25 February 1995
in a hospital in Sloug. He was a few days short of his seventy-fourth
birthday; Haya Clayton believes it was on that same day seventeen years
before that Jack suffered his stroke. During pre-production work on The
Massacre at Fall Creek, Clayton had become fascinated with American
Indian jewellery and began wearing a Navaho bracelet, also buying one for
Johnny, his dear neighbour, and insisting on telling him it had
'healing powers'. When he died, it was not only the film
fraternity that mourned his passing; there was to be a touching obituary by
a friend, Tony Cowan, in the magazine The Racing Pigeon and a Jack
Clayton Memorial Cup established in his honour.
In an interview in Films and Filming in October 1963, Joseph Losey had declared: 'The Servant is the only picture he have ever made in his life where there was no interference from beginning to end, either on script, casting, cutting, music or on anything else. This chapter focuses on his two British films prior to The Servant, The Criminal and The Damned. The Servant could be seen as the completion of the first phase of Losey's English period, which had begun in 1954 with his first film in England, The Sleeping Tiger. The film in which Losey's background is most obvious is The Intimate Stranger in which the hero Richard Basehart is a former American film editor who, partly through an advantageous marriage, has become an important executive producer in England.
This book offers a startling re-evaluation of what has until now been seen as the most critically lacklustre period of the British film history. It includes fresh assessment of maverick directors; Pat Jackson, Robert Hamer and Joseph Losey, and even of a maverick critic Raymond Durgnat. The book features personal insights from those inidividually implicated in 1950s cinema; Corin Redgrave on Michael Redgrave, Isabel Quigly on film reviewing, and Bryony Dixon of the BFI on archiving and preservation. A classic image from 1950s British cinema would be Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea, the epitome of quiet English integrity. Raymond Durgnat's A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Affluence, which deals extensively with British films of the 1950s, was written in the mid-1960s and was published in 1970. In a 1947 article called 'Angles of Approach' Lindsay Anderson delivered a fierce attack on contemporary British film culture, outlining a model for a devoted politics of creation, well in line with what we would later understand as auteurism and art cinema aesthetics . The war films of the 1950s together constitute the assented-to record of the emotions and moral judgments called upon to set in order those disorderly events. The book also talks about the Festival of Britain, White Corridors, and four Hamer's post-Ealing films: The Spider and the Fly, The Long Memory, Father Brown and The Scapegoat. A number of factors have contributed to the relative neglect of the 1950s as a decade in British cinema history.
Far from being cinematically backward, 1950s British film had dashes of imagination that outdid more famous or prestigious examples from the cinematic canon. In his contribution to this book, Dave Rolinson, particularly in his recovery of the neglected The Horse's Mouth, aptly draws attention to a sharper edge to 1950s British film comedy than is always acknowledged. British film of this period is not often credited with that kind of audacity or comic cheek. The comedy is often characterised as postcard or parochial, with the likeable but limited registers of, say, Henry Cornelius's Genevieve or Basil Dearden's The Smallest Show on Earth being typical of the range. Again a classic image from 1950s British cinema would be Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea, the epitome of quiet English integrity.