World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Lewis Gilbert

Lewis Gilbert
Born (1920-03-06) 6 March 1920
Hackney, London, England
Occupation Film director, producer and screenwriter
Years active 1944-2002
Spouse(s) Hylda Tafler (m. 1951–2005) (her death)
Children 1

Lewis Gilbert, CBE (born 6 March 1920) is a British film director, producer and screenwriter, who has directed more than 40 films during six decades; among them such varied titles as Reach for the Sky (1956), Sink the Bismarck! (1960), Alfie (1966), Educating Rita (1983) and Shirley Valentine (1989), as well as three James Bond films: You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)[1] and Moonraker (1979).


  • Early life 1
  • Directorial career 2
    • Alfie 2.1
    • James Bond 2.2
    • Later career 2.3
  • Personal life 3
  • Filmography 4
    • As director 4.1
      • Documentaries 4.1.1
      • Feature films 4.1.2
    • As screenwriter 4.2
    • As producer 4.3
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Lewis Gilbert was born in Hackney, London, the son of a second-generation family of music hall performers,[2] and spent his early years travelling with his parents, and watching the shows from the wings. He first performed on-stage at the age of 5, when asked to drive a trick car around the stage. This pleased the audience, so this became the end of his parents' act. When travelling on trains, his parents frequently hid him in the luggage rack, to avoid paying a fare for him. His father contracted tuberculosis when he was a young man. He died aged 34, when Gilbert was seven. As a child actor in films in the 1920s and 1930s, he was the breadwinner for his family, his mother was a film extra, and he had an erratic formal education. In 1933, at the age of 13, he had a role in Victor Hanbury and John Stafford's Dick Turpin, and at age 17 a small uncredited role in The Divorce of Lady X (1938) opposite Laurence Olivier. Alexander Korda offered to send him to RADA, but Gilbert chose to study direction instead, notably as an assistant on Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939).[2]

When the Second World War started, he joined the Royal Air Force's film unit, where he worked on various documentary films. He was eventually seconded to the US Air Corp film unit, where his commanding officer was William Keighley, an American film director, who allowed Gilbert to take on much of his film-making work.

Directorial career

After the war, he continued to write and direct documentary shorts for Gaumont British, before entering low budget feature film production.[2] Gilbert made his name as a director in the 1950s and 1960s with a series of successful films, often working as the film's writer and producer as well. These films were often based on true stories from the Second World War. Examples include Reach for the Sky (1956) (based on the life of air ace Douglas Bader), Carve Her Name with Pride (1958) (the story of SOE agent Violette Szabo) and Sink the Bismarck! (1960).[3]


In 1966 Gilbert directed Alfie[4] starring Michael Caine. Gilbert's wife Hylda discovered the play by Bill Naughton when she visited the hair salon and sat next to an actress who was in a production. Upon seeing the play, Hylda urged Gilbert to make it into a film. Gilbert used the technique of having the lead character speak directly to the viewer, a technique he later also used in Shirley Valentine (1989). Gilbert said Alfie was only made because the low budget was "the sort of money Paramount executives normally spend on cigar bills".[5] The film won the Jury Special Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and was nominated for five Academy Awards including best picture.[6] Gilbert was also nominated for a Golden Globe for best director. The film was remade in 2004 with Jude Law.[7]

In 1967, Gilbert was chosen to direct Lionel Bart's musical of Oliver! but contracted to another project had to pull out and recommended Carol Reed who took over.[2]

"It was the lowest point in my life," said Gilbert. "I'd developed Oliver! with Lionel Bart. I had to do The Adventurers instead... While doing this film, I signed to do The Godfather. Because of their financial problems, Paramount could only find $2m to make it. I said it needed $7m". So instead Gilbert made Friends.[8]

James Bond

Although known for character dramas, Gilbert directed three of the James Bond films. After some reluctance, he was persuaded by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli to direct You Only Live Twice (1967).[9][10] Gilbert returned to the series in the 1970s to make The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)[1] and Moonraker (1979).[11]

Later career

In the 1980s he returned to more small-scale dramas with film versions of Willy Russell's plays Educating Rita (1983)[12] and Shirley Valentine (1989).[13][14] Gilbert also directed the film Stepping Out (1991).[15][16]

He was awarded the CBE in 1997. In 2001, Lewis Gilbert was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute, the highest accolade given in the British film industry.[2]

On 20 June 2010 he appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs. In it he said of The Adventurers, that the film was a disaster, and that he should never have made it. Of working with Orson Welles on Ferry to Hong Kong, he said that it was: "dreadful, it was my nightmare film. It was a dreadful film, and everything was wrong with it; principally him [Welles]." He also said that his biggest mistake was failing to direct the film version of the musical Oliver!. Its composer Lionel Bart had assured Gilbert that nobody else would do the film, but Gilbert was also contractually committed to Paramount to make a film (that he has since refused to name), which caused him to withdraw from the project.

Personal life

He was married to the former Hylda Tafler for 53 years, until her death in June 2005; they had two sons, John by a previous relationship of Hylda, and Stephen who was fathered by Lewis.[17]

All My Flashbacks: The Autobiography of Lewis Gilbert Sixty Years a Film Director was published by Reynolds & Hearn in 2010.[18]


As director


  • The Ten Year Plan (1945) – documentary about the building of pre-fabricated houses.[19]
  • Arctic Harvest (1946) – documentary about cod-fishing in the Arctic and the production of cod liver oil.[20]
  • World Economic Geography: Fishing Grounds of the World, also known as Sailors Do Care (1947) – documentary about the British and international fishing industry.[21]
  • Under One Roof (1949) – UN sponsored documentary about the students from different countries who attend Loughborough Engineering College.[22]

Feature films

As screenwriter

As producer


  1. ^ a b  
  2. ^ a b c d e "Lewis Gilbert (1920)", BFI screenonline Retrieved 14 April 2012
  3. ^ New York Times February 12, 1960: Movie Review Sink the Bismarck! (1960)
  4. ^ The New York Times
  5. ^ Halliwell's Film & Video Guide 2000, 1999, London: HarperCollins, p15
  6. ^
  7. ^ The New York Times
  8. ^
  9. ^ The New York Times
  10. ^ Chicago Sun-Times
  11. ^ The New York Times
  12. ^ The New York Times
  13. ^ The New York Times
  14. ^ Chicago-Sun Times
  15. ^ The New York Times
  16. ^ The Los Angeles Times
  17. ^ The Guardian
  18. ^ "The Film Programme", BBC Radio 4, 26 March 2010
  19. ^ BFI Film database: The Ten Year Plan Retrieved 14 April 2012
  20. ^ BFI Film database: Arctic Harvest Retrieved 14 April 2012
  21. ^ BFI Film database: World Economic Geography: Fishing Grounds of the World Retrieved 14 April 2012
  22. ^ BFI Film database: Under One Roof Retrieved 14 April 2012

External links

  • BFI film and TV credits for Lewis Gilbert Retrieved 2012-04-14
  • Lewis Gilbert at BAFTA
  • Lewis Gilbert at the Internet Movie Database
  • Lewis Gilbert at AllMovie
Preceded by
Terence Young
Official James Bond Film Director
Succeeded by
Peter R. Hunt
Preceded by
Guy Hamilton
Official James Bond Film Director
Succeeded by
John Glen
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.