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Author: Steve Chibnall

Since his first directorial commission at Welwyn Studios in 1950, Lee Thompson has directed forty-five pictures for theatrical release, covering almost every genre of the cinema. His remarkable ability to adapt his style to suit the material has made him perhaps the most versatile director ever produced by Britain. This book intends to plot the trajectory of a unique film-maker through the typical constraints and opportunities offered by British cinema as a dominant studio system gave way to independent production in the two decades after the Second World War. Thompson was born in Bristol just before the First World War. By the time Thompson left school his ambition was to be an actor, and he joined Nottingham Repertory, making his debut in Young Woodley in 1931. Thompson's opportunity to direct a play came when he received an offer from Hollywood for the film rights to his play Murder Without Crime. His debut box (or ottoman) of tricks went out on the ABC circuit as a double bill with an American film about a GI finding romance in Europe, Four Days Leave. Although the cutting room remained sacrosanct, directors of Thompson's generation had more influence over the final cut of a picture than their predecessors. The Yellow Balloon may be frustratingly limited in its social critique, but as a piece of film making, it was rightly praised for its performances and technical proficiency.

Steve Chibnall

Graham Greene ( 1971 : 117) as an epigraph for his own work) John (Jack) Lee Thompson was born in Bristol just before the First World War (1 August 1914). His mother, Kathleen Lee Bowhill, was Scottish and his father, Peter Anthony Thompson, a Welshman from Penarth. Peter Thompson owned an engineering company and travelled widely, writing several books including one on his

in J. Lee Thompson
Steve Chibnall

poison our guts. When we hate you, we’re hating the dark side of ourselves.’ (Governor Breck in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes , 1972, Director: J. Lee Thompson) ‘Gregory Peck liked what I was doing on The Guns of Navarone , and one day he gave me a novel to read called The Executioners , and he said: “Would you like to make a film of it? It’s going to be my

in J. Lee Thompson
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Steve Chibnall

) Based closely on his own successful stage play, Lee Thompson’s Murder Without Crime is a confident but largely unadventurous first step in film making. Rather than anticipating the taut, socially-concerned, realism which would become a trademark of the director’s best films, this is another story of death in Soho which looks back to the rarefied hokum of earlier theatre work and adaptations like East of Piccadilly. Again

in J. Lee Thompson
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Steve Chibnall

by The One that Got Away. Their first production at their own Beaconsfield Studios teamed Hardy Krüger with Sylvia Syms (already known in Germany from Woman in a Dressing Gown) in a story of Anglo-German romance at Cambridge University, Bachelor of Hearts (Wolf Rilla, 1958). 1 Impressed with his success in Germany, Wintle and Parkyn next approached Lee Thompson to direct a vehicle for another ‘Deutscher

in J. Lee Thompson
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Steve Chibnall

have no idea either. (Jean Luc Godard, Arts , 30 July 1958) Godard’s review of J. Lee Thompson’s Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957) reveals rather more than simply the French film-maker’s arrogance and chauvinism. He has not been alone in finding it difficult to say something positive about British films and filmmakers. In spite of a recent revival of academic

in J. Lee Thompson
Steve Chibnall

‘I’ve been accused of selling out and when I look back, I really can’t argue with that description of my career.’ (J. Lee Thompson) By the mid-1960s, J. Lee Thompson had established himself as a Hollywood director, enjoying big budgets and box office success. Ironically, it was precisely at this time that

in J. Lee Thompson
Steve Chibnall

Comfort’s work in the flow of post-war film production. One might apply them equally effectively to the career of J. Lee Thompson. By the spring of 1953 it was clear that British cinema had found a film-maker who could handle the technical demands of the thriller in a cinematic rather than a purely theatrical fashion. With The Yellow Balloon , Lee Thompson had demonstrated an aptitude for visual storytelling and a flair for

in J. Lee Thompson
Steve Chibnall

curious to believe that that house… was probably the end of their personal road. It was impossible to believe. Something would have to happen. (Sloan Wilson, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit , 1956) Yield to the Night was a watershed film for J. Lee Thompson. It marked a moment of revelation which would profoundly influence his career trajectory. Although it

in J. Lee Thompson
Steve Chibnall

Picture-making is often sheer misery. Planning them is great fun. Making them is rather like riding on a switchback at a fair; you hardly dare imagine what is coming next. (Carol Reed, quoted in Wapshott 1990 : 239) For the first twenty-three years of his career, J. Lee Thompson’s film

in J. Lee Thompson