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Author: Neil Sinyard

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.

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Neil Sinyard

every shot, every movement, every nuance unmistakably his, revealing more than anything else what he was really about. (Haya Harareet Clayton in a letter to Fred Zinnemann, 3 January 1996) Jack Clayton died of a heart attack in the arms of his wife on 25 February 1995 in a hospital in Slough. He was a few days short of his seventy-fourth birthday; Haya

in Jack Clayton
The Pumpkin Eater (1964)
Neil Sinyard

Some of these things happened, and some were dreams. They are all true, as I understood truth. They are all real, as I understood reality. (Penelope Mortimer, The Pumpkin Eater , London, Penguin, 1964, p. 158) 1 Jack Clayton’s films are marked by a deeply

in Jack Clayton
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Naples is a Battlefield (1944); The Bespoke Overcoat (1955)
Neil Sinyard

embarrassingly amateurish letter to Alexander Korda and, to my amazement was granted an interview. He was about 6 foot 4 and sat behind the biggest desk I’ve ever seen. After talking who knows what gibberish to his questions, I walked out very proud. I went home and said to my mother, ‘I have been appointed as third assistant director’. (Jack Clayton, The Daily Breeze , 30 December 1987

in Jack Clayton
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The unrealised projects of Jack Clayton
Neil Sinyard

I know that I believe in it and all its ingredients. (Jack Clayton, letter to Peter Douglas, 1 April 1977) Why did Clayton make so few films? It was a question he was often asked and which caused him some disquiet. ‘I hate myself for not having produced more’, he told Philip Bergson; 1 and to Michael Church he observed: ‘I do wonder why I’ve made so few.’ 2 The nine

in Jack Clayton
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Lonely passions - the cinema of Jack Clayton
Neil Sinyard

Jack Clayton is out of fashion at the moment. Best remembered for Room at the Top , his incisive but impersonal craftsmanship almost counts against him in an age when directors have to be flamboyant projections of their own movies’ obsessions. Clayton’s time will come again. (Alexander Walker, Hot Tickets , 30 April 1998, p. 12

in Jack Clayton
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The Great Gatsby (1974); Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
Neil Sinyard

It seems to me that quite a few of my stories, as well as my one acts would provide interesting and profitable material for the contemporary cinema, if committed to such lovely hands as Miss [Faye] Dunaway’s or Jon Voight’s. And to such cinematic masters of direction as Jack Clayton, who made of The Great Gatsby a film that

in Jack Clayton
Room at the Top (1959)
Neil Sinyard

other countries eking out not so much the talent – there really is plenty of that – as the creative courage of this country, suddenly a film which succeeds by being native. It gives one faith all over again in a renaissance of the British cinema. (Dilys Powell, Sunday Times , 25 January 1959) Jack Clayton’s film of Room at

in Jack Clayton
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987)
Neil Sinyard

sickly Huston bade him a final farewell from his supposed death bed after The Man Who Would Be King: ‘the next time I saw him’, said Caine, ‘he’d done four more films’.) Clayton arranged for Karel Reisz to stand by but Huston lived long enough to see his film through. 3 Jack Clayton, personal note, 6 January 1987

in Jack Clayton
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Memento Mori (1992)
Neil Sinyard

mean, I’m sure you’d all like a nice cup of tea’. (Mrs Mortimer, greeting her elderly luncheon guests in Memento Mori ) There was one film genre Jack Clayton seemed determined to avoid: comedy. ‘I don’t think I could do a comedy’, he told Judith Crist of the New York Herald Tribune (26 April 1959) when being interviewed at the time of the American opening

in Jack Clayton