Carol Reed

Sir Carol Reed (30 December 1906 – 25 April 1976) was an English film director best known for Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948), The Third Man (1949), and Oliver! (1968).[1] For Oliver!, he received the Academy Award for Best Director.

Odd Man Out was the first recipient of the BAFTA Award for Best British Film; filmmaker Roman Polanski has repeatedly cited it as his favourite film.[2] The Fallen Idol won the second BAFTA Award for Best British Film. The British Film Institute voted The Third Man the greatest British film of the 20th century.


Carol Reed
Carol Reed
Born30 December 1906
Putney, London, England
Died25 April 1976 (aged 69)
OccupationFilm director and producer
Years active1935–1972
Diana Wynyard
(m. 1943; div. 1947)


Early life and career

Carol Reed was born in Putney, south-west London.[3] He was the son of actor-producer Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree and his mistress, May Pinney Reed.[4] He was educated at The King's School, Canterbury.

He embarked on an acting career while still in his late teens. A period in the theatrical company of the thriller writer Edgar Wallace followed, and Reed became his personal assistant in 1927.[5] Apart from acting in a few Wallace derived films himself, Reed became involved in adapting his work for the screen during the day while he was a stage manager in the evenings. The connection with Wallace ended with his death in Hollywood during February 1932. Taken on by Basil Dean, Reed worked for his Associated Talking Pictures, successively for ATP as a dialogue director, second-unit director and then assistant director.[6] His films in the later role working under Dean were Autumn Crocus, Lorna Doone and Loyalties and (with Thorold Dickinson) Java Head.

Early films

His earliest films as director were "quota quickies". Of his experience making Midshipman Easy (1935) his first solo directorial project he was harsh on himself. "I was indefinite and indecisive", he said later. "I thought I had picked up a lot about cutting and camera angles, but now, when I had to make all the decisions myself and was not just mentally approving or criticising what somebody else decided, I was pretty much lost. Fortunately, I realised that this was the only way to learn – by making mistakes."[5] Graham Greene, then reviewing films for The Spectator, was much more forgiving, commenting that Reed "has more sense of the cinema than most veteran British directors".[7] Of Reed's comedy Laburnum Grove (1936), he wrote: "Here at last is an English film one can unreservedly praise". He was perceptive about Reed's potential, describing the film as "thoroughly workmanlike and unpretentious, with just the hint of a personal manner which makes one believe that Mr. Reed, when he gets the right script, will prove far more than efficient."[8]

Reed's career began to develop with The Stars Look Down (1940), from the A. J. Cronin novel, which features Michael Redgrave in the lead role. Greene wrote that Reed "has at last had his chance and magnificently taken it." He observed that "one forgets the casting altogether: he [Reed] handles his players like a master, so that one remembers them only as people."[9]

War years

The scripts of several of Reed's films in this period were written by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, with the screenwriters and director working for producer Edward Black, who released through the British subsidiary of 20th Century Fox. The best known of these films are probably Night Train to Munich (1940), with Rex Harrison; Kipps (1941), again with Michael Redgrave; and The Young Mr Pitt (1942), with Robert Donat in the title role. The later film, although historically inaccurate, is set during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

From 1942, Reed served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps: he was granted the rank of Captain and placed with the film unit, and then with the Directorate of Army Psychiatry.[10] For the latter body a training film, The New Lot (1943), was made, recounting the experiences of five new recruits. It had a script by Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov, with contributions from Reed, and was produced by Thorold Dickinson. It was remade as The Way Ahead (1944).


Reed made his three most highly regarded films just after the war, beginning with Odd Man Out (1947), with James Mason in the lead. It is the tale of an injured IRA leader's last hours in an unidentified Northern Irish city. In fact, Belfast was used for the location work, but it remains unnamed in the film.

It was the producer Alexander Korda, to whom Reed was now signed, who introduced the director to the novelist Graham Greene.[11] The next two films were made from screenplays by Greene: The Fallen Idol (1948) and The Third Man (1949).

The Third Man was co-produced by David O. Selznick and Korda, with the American actors Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in two of the leading roles. Reed insisted on casting Welles as Harry Lime, although Selznick had wanted Noël Coward for the role. The film required six weeks of location work in Vienna, during which time it was Reed himself who accidentally discovered Anton Karas, the zither player responsible for the film's music, in a courtyard outside a small Viennese restaurant.[11]

Reed once said: "A picture should end as it has to. I don’t think anything in life ends 'right'". While Greene wanted Holly Martins (Cotten) and Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) to reconcile at the end of the film, after Lime, her lover, is killed by Martins, Reed insisted that Anna should ignore him and walk on. "The whole point of the Valli character in that film is that she’d experienced a fatal love – and then comes along this silly American!"[11]

According to the film critic Derek Malcolm, The Third Man is the "best film noir ever made out of Britain".[1] The film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival,[6] the predecessor of the Palme d'Or.

Later career

Outcast of the Islands (1952), based on a novel by Joseph Conrad, is often thought to mark the start of his creative decline.[12] The Man Between (1953) is dismissed as a rehash of The Third Man.[3] It "makes no startling impact, such as we have learned to expect from its director, on either the mind or the heart", complained Virginia Graham in The Spectator.[13] While the fable A Kid for Two Farthings (1955), Reed's first colour film, set in the East End of London, has been claimed as one of very few authentic cinematic depictions of an Anglo-Jewish community,[14] it suffers from the stereotyping of Jews[15] and is no more than a "whimsical curiosity" according to Michael Brooke.[14] It was the last film Reed made for Korda's London Films; the producer died at the beginning of 1956.

Trapeze (1956), was Reed's first venture into the then relatively new CinemaScope wide screen process, and, although largely shot in Paris, was made for the US Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions company and was a success at the box-office. Our Man in Havana (1959) reunited him with Graham Greene who adapted his own novel.

He was contracted to direct a remake of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) by MGM, but then Marlon Brando was cast as Fletcher Christian, and problems with the mock Bounty and the weather at the locations caused delays.[16] Brando had insisted on creative control,[17] and the two men argued incessantly. Reed left the production at a relatively early stage of production and was replaced by Lewis Milestone.[18] The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), made in the United States, was a box-office failure, and was the last film over which Reed also served as producer. Oliver! (1968), made at Shepperton in Surrey, was financially backed by Columbia, and won the Academy Award for Best Director. "The movie may have been over-produced but it seemed everyone liked it that way", writes Thomas Hischak.[19]

Personal life

From 1943 until 1947, he was married to the British actress Diana Wynyard. After their divorce, he married in 1948 the actress Penelope Dudley-Ward, also known as Pempie, the elder daughter of Freda Dudley Ward, who had been a mistress of the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII) when he was Prince of Wales. They had one son, Max. His stepdaughter Tracy Reed, Ward's daughter, also had an acting career.[20] Actor Oliver Reed was his nephew.

In 1953, he became only the second British film director to be knighted for his craft. The first was Sir Alexander Korda in 1942, who was the producer of some of Reed's most admired films.

Reed died from a heart attack on 25 April 1976 at his home at 213 King's Road, Chelsea, aged 69. He had lived there since 1948. He is buried in Kensington Cemetery, Gunnersbury, West London, and there is a blue plaque on his former home in his honour.


Year Film Notes
1935 It Happened in Paris
Midshipman Easy
1936 Laburnum Grove
1937 Talk of the Devil Also writer
Who's Your Lady Friend?
1938 Penny Paradise
Bank Holiday
1939 Climbing High
A Girl Must Live
1940 The Stars Look Down
Girl in the News
Night Train to Munich
1941 Kipps
A Letter from Home
1942 The Young Mr Pitt
We Serve Recruiting film produced by Verity Films for the ATS.[21]
1943 The New Lot
1944 The Way Ahead
1945 The True Glory Uncredited
1947 Odd Man Out Also producer
BAFTA Award for Best British Film
1948 The Fallen Idol Also producer
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director
BAFTA Award for Best British Film
1949 The Third Man Also producer
Grand Prize of the Cannes Film Festival
BAFTA Award for Best British Film
1952 Outcast of the Islands Also producer
1953 The Man Between Also producer
1955 A Kid for Two Farthings Also producer
1956 Trapeze
1958 The Key
1959 Our Man in Havana Also producer
1962 Mutiny on the Bounty Replaced by Lewis Milestone; uncredited
1963 The Running Man Also producer
1965 The Agony and the Ecstasy Also producer
1968 Oliver! Academy Award for Best Director
1969 BAFTA Award for Best Film
6th Moscow International Film Festival - Special Prize[22]
1970 Flap
1972 Follow Me!



  1. ^ a b Malcolm, Derek (16 March 2000). "Carol Reed: The Third Man". The Guardian. Carol Reed directed films for 40 years, but his golden period was brief. It covered three years in the late '40s when he made Odd Man Out, The Fallen Idol and The Third Man. These three films alone put him in the forefront of British directors of the period, and the last-named, his second collaboration with Graham Greene, is probably the best film noir ever made out of Britain.
  2. ^ Roman Polanski: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi, 2005. ISBN 978-1-57806-800-5. Pages 159, 189.
  3. ^ a b Philip Kemp "Reed, Carol (1906-1976)", Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Director, reprinted at BFI Screenonline. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has Wandsworth, London as Reed's place of birth.
  4. ^ "The Stars Look Down - Movie info: cast, reviews, trailer on". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
  5. ^ a b Trevor Hogg "A Great Reed: A Carol Reed Profile (Part 1)", Flickering Myth, 21 October 2009
  6. ^ a b Freehan, Deirdre (15 December 2010). "Carol Reed". Senses of Cinema.
  7. ^ Graham Greene "Stage And Screen: The Cinema", The Spectator, 3 January 1936, p.18
  8. ^ Graham Greene "Stage And Screen: The Cinema", The Spectator, 30 July 1936, p.15
  9. ^ Graham Greene "Stage and Screen: The Cinema", The Spectator, 26 January 1940, p.16
  10. ^ Peter William Evans Carol Reed, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005, p.53
  11. ^ a b c Trevor Hogg "A Great Reed: A Carol Reed Profile (Part 2)", Flickering Myths, 28 October 2009
  12. ^ David Thomson seems to think that in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, London: Little Brown, 2002, p.721, but ascribes this view to others in Have You Seen, London: Allen Lane, 2008, p.632
  13. ^ Virginia Graham "Cinema", The Spectator, 24 September 1953, p.13
  14. ^ a b Michael Brooke "Kid for Two Farthings, A (1955)", BFI Screenonline
  15. ^ Matthew Reisz "EastEnders - but not as we know it", The Guardian, 15 September 2006
  16. ^ Cliff Goodwin Behaving Badly: Richard Harris, Random House, 2011, p.91
  17. ^ David Thomson Have You Seen?, London: Allen Lane, 2008, p.585
  18. ^ Robert Sellers Hollywood Hellraisers: The Wild Lives and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, Random House, 2010, p.34
  19. ^ Thomas Hischak The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film and Television, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, p.547
  20. ^ Tracy Reed on IMDb
  21. ^ Spicer, Andrew (2006). Sydney Box. British Film Makers. Manchester University Press. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-0-7190-5999-5. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  22. ^ "6th Moscow International Film Festival (1969)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
  23. ^ "Carol Reed, Filmography". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  24. ^ "Carol Reed, Awards". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 7 July 2009.

External links

A Girl Must Live

A Girl Must Live is a 1939 British romantic comedy film directed by Carol Reed and starring Margaret Lockwood, with supporting cast Renee Houston, Lilli Palmer, and Hugh Sinclair. Based on the 1936 novel by Emery Bonett with the same title, the plot features a group of chorus line girls who compete for the affection of a distinguished bachelor.

A Kid for Two Farthings (film)

A Kid For Two Farthings is a 1955 film, directed by Carol Reed. The screenplay was adapted by Wolf Mankowitz from his own novel of the same name. The film presumably gets its name from an Aramaic song traditionally sung after the Passover Seder, Chad Gadya ("A Lone Kid"), in which a kid bought for two small coins, "zuzim" in the original, stands in for the Children of Israel.

Bank Holiday (film)

Bank Holiday (also known as Three on a Weekend) is a 1938 British drama film directed by Carol Reed and starring John Lodge, Margaret Lockwood, Hugh Williams and Kathleen Harrison.

Climbing High

Climbing High is a 1938 British comedy film directed by Carol Reed and produced by Michael Balcon with a screenplay by Sonnie Hale, Marion Dix and Lesser Samuels. It stars Jessie Matthews, Michael Redgrave, Noel Madison, Margaret Vyner and Alistair Sim, and was first released in the U.K. in November 1938.

Girl in the News

Girl in the News is a 1940 British thriller film directed by Carol Reed and starring Margaret Lockwood, Barry K. Barnes and Emlyn Williams.

Kipps (1941 film)

Kipps, also known as The Remarkable Mr. Kipps, is a British 1941 comedy-drama film adaptation of H. G. Wells's novel of the same name, directed by Carol Reed. Michael Redgrave stars as a draper's assistant who inherits a large fortune.

Laburnum Grove

Laburnum Grove is a 1936 British comedy film directed by Carol Reed and starring Edmund Gwenn, Cedric Hardwicke and Victoria Hopper. It was based on the 1933 play of the same name written by J. B. Priestley.

Night Train to Munich

Night Train to Munich is a 1940 British thriller film directed by Carol Reed and starring Margaret Lockwood and Rex Harrison. Written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on the novel Report on a Fugitive by Gordon Wellesley, the film is about an inventor and his daughter who are kidnapped by the Gestapo after the Nazis march into Prague in the prelude to the Second World War. A British secret service agent follows them, disguised as a senior German army officer pretending to woo the daughter over to the Nazi cause.

Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out is a 1947 British and Irish film noir directed by Carol Reed. Set in an unnamed Northern Irish city, it is based on the novel of the same name by F. L. Green and stars James Mason and Robert Newton.The film received the first BAFTA Award for Best British Film. Filmmaker Roman Polanski has repeatedly cited Odd Man Out as his favourite film.

Oliver! (film)

Oliver! is a 1968 British musical drama film directed by Carol Reed, written by Vernon Harris, and based on the stage musical of the same name. Both the film and play are based on Charles Dickens's novel Oliver Twist. The film includes such musical numbers as "Food, Glorious Food", "Consider Yourself", "As Long as He Needs Me", "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two", and "Where Is Love?". Filmed at Shepperton Film Studio in Surrey, it was a Romulus Films production and was distributed internationally by Columbia Pictures.

At the 41st Academy Awards for 1968, Oliver! was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won six, including Best Picture, Best Director for Reed, and an Honorary Award for choreographer Onna White. At the 26th Golden Globe Awards, the film won two Golden Globes: for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and Best Actor – Musical or Comedy for Ron Moody.

The British Film Institute ranked Oliver! the 77th greatest British film of the 20th century. In 2017, a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine ranked it the 69th best British film ever.

Our Man in Havana (film)

Our Man in Havana is a 1959 British spy comedy film shot in CinemaScope, directed and produced by Carol Reed and starring Alec Guinness, Burl Ives, Maureen O'Hara, Ralph Richardson, Noël Coward and Ernie Kovacs. The film is adapted from the 1958 novel Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene. The film takes the action of the novel and gives it a more comedic touch. The movie marks Reed's third collaboration with Greene.

Outcast of the Islands

Outcast of the Islands is a 1951 film directed by Carol Reed based on Joseph Conrad's novel An Outcast of the Islands. The film features Robert Morley, Trevor Howard, Ralph Richardson, and Wendy Hiller.

The Agony and the Ecstasy (film)

The Agony and the Ecstasy is a 1965 American film directed by Carol Reed, starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II. The film was partly based on Irving Stone's biographical novel The Agony and the Ecstasy. This film deals with the conflicts of Michelangelo and Pope Julius II during the painting of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling. It also features a soundtrack co-written by prolific composers Alex North and Jerry Goldsmith.The film was shot in Todd-AO and Cinemascope versions. The Todd-AO version was used for the DVD release because of its superior picture quality.

The Fallen Idol (film)

The Fallen Idol (also known as The Lost Illusion) is a 1948 film directed by Carol Reed and based on the short story "The Basement Room", by Graham Greene. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director (Carol Reed) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Graham Greene), and won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film.

The Man Between

The Man Between (also known as Berlin Story) is a 1953 British thriller film directed by Carol Reed and starring James Mason, Claire Bloom, Hildegard Knef and Geoffrey Toone. The screenplay concerns a British woman on a visit to post-war Berlin, who is caught up in an espionage ring smuggling secrets into and out of the Eastern Bloc.

The Third Man

The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir directed by Carol Reed, written by Graham Greene, and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. The film is set in post–World War II Vienna. It centres on Holly Martins, an American who is given a job in Vienna by his friend Harry Lime, but when Holly arrives in Vienna he gets the news that Lime is dead. Martins then meets with Lime's acquaintances in an attempt to investigate what he considers a suspicious death.

The atmospheric use of black-and-white expressionist cinematography by Robert Krasker, with harsh lighting and distorted "Dutch angle" camera technique, is a major feature of The Third Man. Combined with the iconic theme music, seedy locations and acclaimed performances from the cast, the style evokes the atmosphere of an exhausted, cynical post-war Vienna at the start of the Cold War.

Greene wrote the novella of the same name as preparation for the screenplay. Anton Karas wrote and performed the score, which featured only the zither. The title music "The Third Man Theme" topped the international music charts in 1950, bringing the previously unknown performer international fame. It is considered one of the greatest films of all time, celebrated for its acting, musical score and atmospheric cinematography.In 1999, the British Film Institute voted The Third Man the greatest British film of all time. In 2017 a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine saw it ranked the second best British film ever.

The True Glory

The True Glory (1945) is a co-production of the US Office of War Information and the British Ministry of Information, documenting the victory on the Western Front, from Normandy to the collapse of the Third Reich.

Although many individuals, including screenwriter and director Garson Kanin, contributed to the film, British director Carol Reed is normally credited as the director. The film was promoted with the tagline, "The story of your victory...told by the guys who won it!" The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The Young Mr. Pitt

The Young Mr. Pitt is a 1942 British biographical film of the life of William Pitt the Younger and in particular his struggle against revolutionary France and Napoleon. It was directed by Carol Reed and stars Robert Donat, Robert Morley and John Mills. Made in black-and-white, it was produced by Edward Black and Maurice Ostrer for the British subsidiary of 20th Century Fox.

It was filmed as the Second World War was raging. Similar parallels with the struggle against Hitler's Germany were implied in That Hamilton Woman (aka Lady Hamilton, 1941), made by Alexander Korda in the United States with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in the leads.

Trapeze (film)

Trapeze is a 1956 American circus film directed by Carol Reed and starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida, making her debut in American films. The film is based on Max Catto's novel The Killing Frost, with the adapted screenplay written by Liam O'Brien.The film did well at the box office placing in the top three among the year's top earners.

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