This book explores why Jack Clayton had made so few films and why most of them
failed to find a large audience. It examines the kind of criticism they
generated, sometimes adulatory but sometimes dismissive and even condescending.
The book hopes to throw light on certain tendencies and developments within the
film industry and of film criticism, the British film industry and film
criticism in particular. The fact that Clayton's films fit David
Bordwell's paradigm of the art film is one explanation why producers had
difficulty with him and why mainstream cinema found his work hard to place and
assimilate. Clayton's pictorial eye has sometimes antagonised critics: they
often take exception to some aspect of his mise-en-scene. Clayton had come to
prominence with Room at the Top, around the time of the British 'Free
Cinema' movement and immediately prior to the so-called British
'new-wave' films of the early 1960s from directors such as Tony
Richardson and John Schlesinger. Thorold Dickinson's evocation of the
Russian atmosphere and, in particular, his use of suspenseful soundtrack to
suggest ghostly visitation undoubtedly had an influence on Jack Clayton's
style in both The Bespoke Overcoat and The Innocents. The critical
controversy concerning the status of Jack Clayton as director and artist is
probably at its most intense over The Pumpkin Eater. Clayton stressed the
importance of an opening that established right away the situation of 'a
woman in crisis' but wanted to delay the Harrods scene so as to build up an
atmosphere of suspense.
of Denis Forman, the poet and critic Paul Dehn, Gavin Lambert, the
head of BFI publications, and the documentary filmmaker Basil Wright.
Broughton described his situation to Duncan: ‘This is a little like falling
into a fairy tale full of good fairy godfathers; it will be nice if it is not just a
dream. I cross fingers daily.’17
The film was made with the assistance of two of the future voices of the
British ‘freecinema’ movement, Lindsay Anderson and Gavin Lambert.
In a number of articles written for the BFI’s mouthpiece Sight and Sound
and the film journal
British film scene of the 1960s: that is, the period
when Clayton’s directing career began to develop.
Clayton had come to prominence with Room at the Top ,
around the time of the British ‘FreeCinema’ movement (involving
directors like Reisz and Anderson) and immediately prior to the so-called
British ‘new-wave’ films of the early 1960s from directors such
as Tony Richardson and John Schlesinger. The impact of Clayton’s film