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

Beat the Devil (1954). Huston then offered Clayton the tempting opportunity to be producer on his next four films, but ironically, it was Huston more than anyone who had given Clayton the taste for direction. With some sadness Clayton turned down the offer in favour of the opportunity to direct The Bespoke Overcoat (1955) for the Woolfs. When the film won awards and was a success on the festival circuit and after Clayton

in Jack Clayton
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Neil Sinyard

life and career. In contrast to the lovefests favoured by the American Film Institute, the BAFTA ceremony was an always dignified and often delightful remembrance from people of various ages and backgrounds of a man whose life had deeply touched their own. Punctuated by a screening of The Bespoke Overcoat , affectionately introduced by David Kossoff, and a recording of the exquisite flute solo from Georges Delerue’s score for

in Jack Clayton
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Memento Mori (1992)
Neil Sinyard

. Children should be told that after their birth the most natural thing is death.’ The feeling, no doubt, derived in part from the experience of five years of flying missions for the RAF during World War II. As we have already noted, death and/or funeral scenes occur frequently in his work, involving the key characters and always carrying great weight. The Bespoke Overcoat is, in a sense, one long death scene, and one might also

in Jack Clayton
The Pumpkin Eater (1964)
Neil Sinyard

is similar to the first flashback in The Bespoke Overcoat – a memory, or even a fantasy, of the past, being watched by a person in the present as if he or she were almost a participant. It has the effect of giving the flashback, and the past, a living immediacy; but it also suggests a subjective colouring of the person’s present predicament as well as (indeed, more than) a narrative step backwards. The contrast between

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

people live their lives, often in adversity. In Something Wicked This Way Comes , Jason Robards’s Mr Halloway talks at one stage of the ‘soul’s midnight’ and that is what Clayton explored in many of his characters, from David Kossoff’ s haunted tailor in The Bespoke Overcoat to Maggie Smith’s Catholic in crisis, Judith Hearne. These characters endure. As Anne Bancroft was to say of Clayton (and it is a key observation to

in Jack Clayton
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The Innocents (1961)
Neil Sinyard

Clayton to great effect on Moulin Rouge and The Bespoke Overcoat and having written scores for Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (1946) and Thorold Dickinson’s The Queen of Spades that suggested a facility for this kind of fantastic subject. But Clayton was dissatisfied with the finished score and wanted revisions which Auric, because of ill-health, was unable to provide. The re-orchestration was put into the hands of W

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

looking in the direction of an industry veteran like Jack Clayton, who by that time had been in films for over twenty years and whose most recent work included directing a whimsical short, The Bespoke Overcoat (1955), and producing such works as Three Men in a Boat (1956) and Sailor Beware (1956), which were not exactly portents of revolution. Some aspects of the critical response to Room at the Top

in Jack Clayton
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Brian McFarlane and Anthony Slide

Featuring more than 6,500 articles, including over 350 new entries, this fifth edition of The Encyclopedia of British Film is an invaluable reference guide to the British film industry. It is the most authoritative volume yet, stretching from the inception of the industry to the present day, with detailed listings of the producers, directors, actors and studios behind a century or so of great British cinema.

Brian McFarlane's meticulously researched guide is the definitive companion for anyone interested in the world of film. Previous editions have sold many thousands of copies, and this fifth instalment will be an essential work of reference for universities, libraries and enthusiasts of British cinema.

in The Encyclopedia of British Film