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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.

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
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987)
Neil Sinyard

for the main role ‘providing one could make her look a little older and plainer’. But it was twenty years before the opportunity to make the film finally came, when United British Artists brought it to Clayton’s attention via his agent, who was also on the board of HandMade Films. By that time Maggie Smith – who had made such an impression on Clayton in her small but crucial role in The Pumpkin Eater – seemed the ideal

in Jack Clayton
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The ‘actor’s actor’?
Andrew Roberts

thinks of The Pumpkin Eater or Sunday Bloody Sunday (John Schlesinger 1971), especially during one of the musical numbers or the scenes opposite John Gielgud wearing a very silly hat. 1 Finch once reflected of his career that, ‘All of the others have either been films I liked that didn’t make money or films I didn’t like that did make money’ (Ebert 1968 : n.p.). Anyone who wishes to chronical the cinematic career of Peter Finch faces three challenges, the first of which is the bulk of material devoted to his affair with Vivien Leigh and the second is that of

in Idols of the Odeons
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Our Mother’s House (1967)
Neil Sinyard

most empathy with it. Three years later, Nicolas Roeg was to experience similar difficulties with Walkabout (1970). Our Mother’s House could be seen as a continuation of The Innocents and The Pumpkin Eater. It has something of the Gothicism of the former, and the same restricted setting and disturbed children; also a strong religious subtext (like Joe Lampton’s aunt in Room at the Top , the

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

of his filmic personality but one who in the climate of the 1960s seemed set to situate himself at the core of European art cinema. He used French composers on his soundtracks (Auric, Delerue) and even some of his films had a Gallic flavour, The Innocents stylistically evoking the Cocteau of Beauty and the Beast and Our Mother’s House thematically recalling the Clement of Jeux Interdits . The Pumpkin Eater might

in Jack Clayton
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Neil Sinyard

9 Deborah Kerr and jack Clayton on the set of The Innocents 10 Clayton’s sketch of the last scene of The Innocents 11 Clayton, Haya Harareet and James Mason arrive for the screening of The Pumpkin

in Jack Clayton
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Memento Mori (1992)
Neil Sinyard

provides an object lesson in how not to direct a party scene (which Clayton may have recalled when he came to direct the party scene in The Pumpkin Eater , which is very funny). Even the humour of John Huston’s spoof thriller, Beat the Devil , on which Clayton was associate producer and which has at least an underground reputation as a cult classic, was lost on him. Although great fun to make, with Truman Capote pounding out

in Jack Clayton
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Neil Sinyard

sense that I understand the term – a model of pithiness and precision – and can perhaps stand as final testimony to Clayton’s singular talent: Jack Clayton was a director of great sensitivity, intelligence and flair. He was a gentle man, with a quiet, wry sense of humour, but professionally he possessed the utmost rigour and a fierce determination. I wrote the screenplay of The Pumpkin Eater in 1963. It remains, in my

in Jack Clayton
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Matron and mistress of misrule
Andrew Roberts

skilful performers continually shunted to the sidelines’ ( 2011 : 103). In terms of actresses, the list is indeed a lengthy one: Dora Bryan, except A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson 1961); Beryl Reid, aside from The Killing of Sister George (Robert Aldrich 1968); Esma Cannon; and Peggy Mount, to name but a few. The performances of Yootha Joyce in Catch Us If You Can (John Boorman 1965), and especially The Pumpkin Eater (Jack Clayton 1964) stand for more lost opportunities for British films, which also neglected the talents of June Whitfield and Fenella

in Idols of the Odeons