David Lean

Sir David Lean CBE (25 March 1908 – 16 April 1991) was an English film director, producer, screenwriter and editor, responsible for large-scale epics[1] such as The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and A Passage to India (1984). He also directed adaptations of Charles Dickens novels Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), and the romantic drama Brief Encounter (1945).

Originally a film editor in the early 1930s, Lean made his directorial debut with 1942's In Which We Serve, which was the first of four collaborations with Noël Coward. Beginning with Summertime in 1955, Lean began to make internationally co-produced films financed by the big Hollywood studios; in 1970, however, the critical failure of his film Ryan's Daughter led him to take a fourteen-year break from filmmaking, during which he planned a number of film projects which never came to fruition. In 1984 he had a career revival with A Passage to India, adapted from E. M. Forster's novel; it was an instant hit with critics but proved to be the last film Lean would direct.

Lean's affinity for striking visuals and inventive editing techniques has led him to be lauded by directors such as Steven Spielberg,[2] Stanley Kubrick,[3] Martin Scorsese,[4] and Ridley Scott.[5] Lean was voted 9th greatest film director of all time in the British Film Institute Sight & Sound "Directors' Top Directors" poll in 2002.[6] Nominated seven times for the Academy Award for Best Director, which he won twice for The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, he has seven films in the British Film Institute's Top 100 British Films (with three of them being in the top five)[7][8] and was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1990.

David Lean

Born25 March 1908
Died16 April 1991 (aged 83)
OccupationFilm director, film producer, screenwriter, film editor
Years active1942–1991
Isabel Lean
(m. 1930; div. 1936)

Kay Walsh
(m. 1940; div. 1949)

Ann Todd
(m. 1949; div. 1957)

Leila Matkar
(m. 1960; div. 1978)

Sandra Hotz
(m. 1981; div. 1984)

Sandra Cooke (m. 1990)

Early life and education

Lean was born at 38 Blenheim Crescent, South Croydon, Surrey (now part of Greater London), to Francis William le Blount Lean and the former Helena Tangye (niece of Sir Richard Trevithick Tangye). His parents were Quakers and he was a pupil at the Quaker-founded Leighton Park School in Reading. His younger brother, Edward Tangye Lean (1911–1974), founded the original Inklings literary club when a student at Oxford University. Lean was a half-hearted schoolboy with a dreamy nature who was labeled a "dud"[9] of a student; he left school in the Christmas Term of 1926, at the age of 18[10] and entered his father's chartered accountancy firm as an apprentice. A more formative event for his career than his formal education was an uncle's gift, when Lean was aged ten, of a Brownie box camera. "You usually didn't give a boy a camera until he was 16 or 17 in those days. It was a huge compliment and I succeeded at it.' Lean printed and developed his films, and it was his 'great hobby'.[11] In 1923,[12] his father deserted the family when he ran off with another woman, and Lean would later follow a similar path after his own first marriage and child.[9]


Period as film editor

Bored by his work, Lean spent every evening in the cinema, and in 1927, after an aunt had advised him to find a job he enjoyed, he visited Gaumont Studios where his obvious enthusiasm earned him a month's trial without pay. He was taken on as a teaboy, promoted to clapperboy, and soon rose to the position of third assistant director. By 1930 he was working as an editor on newsreels, including those of Gaumont Pictures and Movietone, while his move to feature films began with Freedom of the Seas (1934) and Escape Me Never (1935).[13]

He edited Gabriel Pascal's film productions of two George Bernard Shaw plays, Pygmalion (1938) and Major Barbara (1941). He edited Powell & Pressburger's 49th Parallel (1941) and One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942). After this last film, Lean began his directing career, after editing more than two dozen features by 1942. As Tony Sloman wrote in 1999, "As the varied likes of David Lean, Robert Wise, Terence Fisher and Dorothy Arzner have proved, the cutting rooms are easily the finest grounding for film direction."[14] David Lean was given honorary membership of the Guild of British Film Editors in 1968.

British films

His first work as a director was in collaboration with Noël Coward on In Which We Serve (1942), and he later adapted several of Coward's plays into successful films. These films are This Happy Breed (1944), Blithe Spirit (1945) and Brief Encounter (1945) with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard as quietly understated clandestine lovers, torn between their unpredictable passion and their respective orderly middle-class marriages in suburban England. The film shared Grand Prix honors at the 1946 Cannes film festival and garnered Lean his first Academy nominations for directing and screen adaptation, and Celia Johnson a nomination for Best Actress. It has since become a classic, one of the most highly regarded British films.

Two celebrated Charles Dickens adaptations followed – Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948). David Shipman wrote in The Story of Cinema: Volume Two (1984): "Of the other Dickens films, only Cukor's David Copperfield approaches the excellence of this pair, partly because his casting, too, was near perfect".[15] These two films were the first directed by Lean to star Alec Guinness, whom Lean considered his "good luck charm". The actor's portrayal of Fagin was controversial at the time. The first screening in Berlin during February 1949 offended the surviving Jewish community and led to a riot. It caused problems too in New York, and after private screenings, was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League and the American Board of Rabbis. "To our surprise it was accused of being anti-Semitic", Lean wrote. "We made Fagin an outsize and, we hoped, an amusing Jewish villain."[16] The terms of the production code meant that the film's release in the United States was delayed until July 1951 after cuts amounting to eight minutes.[17]

The next film directed by Lean was The Passionate Friends (1949), an atypical Lean film, but one which marked his first occasion to work with Claude Rains, who played the husband of a woman (Todd) torn between him and an old flame (Howard). The Passionate Friends was the first of three films to feature the actress Ann Todd, who became his third wife. Madeleine (1950), set in Victorian-era Glasgow is about an 1857 cause célèbre with Todd's lead character accused of murdering a former lover. "Once more", writes film critic David Thomson "Lean settles on the pressing need for propriety, but not before the film has put its characters and the audience through a wringer of contradictory feelings."[18] The last of the films with Todd, The Sound Barrier (1952), has a screenplay by the playwright Terence Rattigan and was the first of his three films for Sir Alexander Korda's London Films. Hobson's Choice (1954), with Charles Laughton in the lead, was based on the play by Harold Brighouse.

International films

Lean in Northern Finland in 1965 while shooting Doctor Zhivago.

Summertime (1955) marked a new departure for Lean. It was partly American financed, although again made for Korda's London Films. The film features Katharine Hepburn in the lead role as a middle-aged American woman who has a romance while on holiday in Venice. It was shot entirely on location there.

For Columbia and Sam Spiegel

Lean's films now began to become infrequent but much larger in scale and more extensively released internationally. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) was based on a novel by Pierre Boulle recounting the story of British and American prisoners of war trying to survive in a Japanese prison camp during the Second World War. The film stars William Holden and Alec Guinness and became the highest-grossing film of 1957 in the United States. It won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Alec Guinness, who had battled with Lean to give more depth to his role as an obsessively correct British commander who is determined to build the best possible bridge for his Japanese captors in Burma.

After extensive location work in the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, and elsewhere, Lean's Lawrence of Arabia was released in 1962. This was the first project of Lean's with a screenplay by playwright Robert Bolt, rewriting an original script by Michael Wilson (one of the two blacklisted writers of Bridge on the River Kwai). It recounts the life of T. E. Lawrence, the British officer who is depicted in the film as uniting the squabbling Bedouin peoples of the Arab peninsula to fight in World War I and then push on for independence.

After some hesitation, Alec Guinness once again appeared, in his fourth David Lean film, as the Arab leader, Prince Faisal, despite his misgivings from their conflicts on Bridge on the River Kwai. French composer Maurice Jarre, on his first Lean film, created a soaring film score with a famous theme and won his first Oscar for Best Original Score. The film turned actor Peter O'Toole, playing Lawrence, into an international star, was nominated for ten Oscars and won seven, including Best Picture and Lean's second win for Best Director. He remains the only British director to win more than one Oscar for directing.


Lean had his greatest box-office success with Doctor Zhivago (1965), a romance set during the Russian Revolution. The film, based on the banned novel by Nobel Prize-winning Russian poet Boris Pasternak, tells the story of a brilliant and warm-hearted physician and poet (Omar Sharif) who, while seemingly happily married into the Russian aristocracy, and a father, falls in love with a beautiful abandoned young mother named Lara (Julie Christie) and struggles to be with her in the chaos of the Bolshevik revolution and subsequent Russian Civil War.

Initially, reviews for Doctor Zhivago were lukewarm, but critics have since come to see it as one of Lean's best films, with film director Paul Greengrass calling it "one of the great masterpieces of cinema".[19] As of 2015, it is the 8th highest-grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation. Producer Carlo Ponti used Maurice Jarre's lush romantic score to create a pop tune called "Lara's Theme", which became an international hit song with lyrics under the title "Somewhere My Love", one of cinema's most successful theme songs. The British director of photography, Freddie Young, won an Academy Award for his color cinematography. Around the same time, Lean also directed some scenes of The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) while George Stevens was committed to location work in Nevada.

Lean's Ryan's Daughter (1970) was released after an extended period on location in Ireland. A doomed romance set against the backdrop of 1916 Ireland's struggles against the British, it is loosely based on Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Starring the aging Hollywood 'bad boy' Robert Mitchum in an uncharacteristic role as a long-suffering Irish husband and British actress Sarah Miles as his faithless young wife, the film received far fewer positive reviews than the director's previous work, being particularly savaged by the New York critics. Some critics felt the film's massive visual scale on gorgeous Irish beaches and extended running time did not suit its small-scale romantic narrative. Nonetheless, the film was a box office success, earning $31 million and making it the 8th highest-grossing film of that year. It won two Academy Awards the following year, another for cinematographer Freddie Young and for supporting actor John Mills in his role as a village halfwit.

The poor critical reception of the film prompted Lean to meet with the National Society of Film Critics, gathered at the Algonquin Hotel in New York, including The New Yorker's Pauline Kael, and ask them why they objected to the movie. "I sensed trouble from the moment I sat down," Lean says of the now famous luncheon. TIME critic Richard Shickel asked Lean pointblank how he, the director of Brief Encounter, could have made "a piece of bullshit" like Ryan's Daughter.[20] These critics so lacerated the film for two hours to David Lean's face that the devastated Lean was put off making films for a long time. "They just took the film to bits," said Lean in a later television interview. "It really had such an awful effect on me for several years... you begin to think that maybe they're right. Why on earth am I making films if I don't have to? It shakes one's confidence terribly.""[21]

Last years and unfulfilled projects

From 1977 until 1980, Lean and Robert Bolt worked on a film adaptation of Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian, a dramatized account by Richard Hough of the Mutiny on the Bounty. It was originally to be released as a two-part film, one named The Lawbreakers that dealt with the voyage out to Tahiti and the subsequent mutiny, and the second named The Long Arm that studied the journey of the mutineers after the mutiny as well as the admiralty's response in sending out the frigate HMS Pandora, in which some of the mutineers were imprisoned. Lean could not find financial backing for both films after Warner Bros. withdrew from the project; he decided to combine it into one and looked at a seven-part TV series before getting backing from Italian mogul Dino De Laurentiis. The project then suffered a further setback when Bolt suffered a serious stroke and was unable to continue writing; the director felt that Bolt's involvement would be crucial to the film's success. Melvyn Bragg ended up writing a considerable portion of the script.

Lean was forced to abandon the project after overseeing casting and the construction of the $4 million Bounty replica; at the last possible moment, actor Mel Gibson brought in his friend Roger Donaldson to direct the film, as producer De Laurentiis did not want to lose the millions he had already put into the project over what he thought was as insignificant a person as the director dropping out.[22] The film was eventually released as The Bounty.

Lean then embarked on a project he had pursued since 1960, a film adaptation of A Passage to India (1984), from E. M. Forster's 1924 novel of colonial conflicts in British-occupied India. Entirely shot on location in the sub-continent, this became his last completed film. He rejected a draft by Santha Rama Rau, responsible for the stage adaptation and Forster's preferred screenwriter, and wrote the script himself.[23] In addition, Lean also edited the film with the result that his three roles in the production (writer, editor, director) were given equal status in the credits.[24]

Lean recruited long-time collaborators for the cast and crew, including Maurice Jarre (who won another Academy-Award for the score), Alec Guinness in his sixth and final role for Lean, as an eccentric Hindu Brahmin, and John Box, the production designer for Dr. Zhivago. Reversing the critical response to Ryan's Daughter, the film opened to universally enthusiastic reviews; the film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and Lean himself nominated for three Academy Awards in directing, editing, and writing. His female star, in the complex role of a confused young British woman who falsely accuses an Indian man of rape, gained Australian actress Judy Davis her first Academy nomination. Peggy Ashcroft, as the sensitive Mrs. Moore, won the Oscar for best supporting actress, making her, at 77, the oldest actress to win that award. According to Roger Ebert, it is "one of the greatest screen adaptations I have ever seen".[25] But this was, sadly, to be his last.

He was signed on to direct a Warner Bros.-backed adaptation of J. G. Ballard's autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun after director Harold Becker left the project. Steven Spielberg was brought on board as a producer for Lean, but later assumed the role of director when Lean dropped out of the project; Spielberg was drawn to the idea of making the film due to his long-time admiration for Lean and his films. Empire of the Sun was released in 1987.

During the last years of his life, Lean was in pre-production of a film version of Joseph Conrad's Nostromo. He assembled an all-star cast, including Marlon Brando, Paul Scofield, Anthony Quinn, Peter O'Toole, Christopher Lambert, Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Quaid, with Georges Corraface as the title character. Lean also wanted Alec Guinness to play Doctor Monyghan, but the aged actor turned him down in a letter from 1989: "I believe I would be disastrous casting. The only thing in the part I might have done well is the crippled crab-like walk." As with Empire of the Sun, Steven Spielberg came on board as producer with the backing of Warner Bros., but after several rewrites and disagreements on the script, he left the project and was replaced by Serge Silberman, a respected producer at Greenwich Film Productions.

The Nostromo project involved several writers, including Christopher Hampton and Robert Bolt, but their work was abandoned. In the end, Lean decided to write the film himself with the assistance of Maggie Unsworth (wife of renowned cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth), with whom he had worked on the scripts for Brief Encounter, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and The Passionate Friends. Originally Lean considered filming in Mexico but later decided to film in London and Madrid, partly to secure O'Toole, who had insisted he would take part only if the film was shot close to home. Nostromo had a total budget of $46 million and was six weeks away from filming at the time of Lean's death from throat cancer. It was rumoured that fellow film director John Boorman would take over direction, but the production collapsed. Nostromo was finally adapted for the small screen with an unrelated BBC television mini-series in 1997.

Personal life and honours

Lean was a long-term resident of Limehouse, east London. His home on Narrow Street is still owned by his family. His co-writer and producer Norman Spencer has said that Lean was a "huge womaniser" and "to my knowledge, he had almost 1,000 women".[26] He was married six times, had one son, and at least two grandchildren—from all of whom he was completely estranged[4]—and was divorced five times. He was survived by his last wife, art dealer Sandra Cooke, the co-author (with Barry Chattington) of David Lean: An Intimate Portrait.[9] as well as Peter Lean, his son from his first marriage.

His six wives were:

  • Isabel Lean (28 June 1930 – 1936) (his first cousin); one son, Peter
  • Kay Walsh (23 November 1940 – 1949)
  • Ann Todd (21 May 1949 – 1957)
  • Leila Matkar (4 July 1960 – 1978) (from Hyderabad, India); Lean's longest-lasting marriage[27][28]
  • Sandra Hotz (28 October 1981 – 1984)
  • Sandra Cooke (15 December 1990 – 16 April 1991, Lean's death)

Lean was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1953, and was knighted for his contributions and services to the arts in 1984.[29] Lean received the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1990. In 2012, Lean was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires.[30][31]

In 1999, the British Film Institute compiled its list of the Top 100 British films; seven of Lean's films appeared on the list:

In addition to this, the American Film Institute's 1998 100 Years...100 Movies list placed Lawrence of Arabia 5th, The Bridge on the River Kwai 13th and Doctor Zhivago 39th; in the 2007 revised edition, Lawrence of Arabia placed 7th and The Bridge on the River Kwai placed 36th.

Style and influence

As Lean himself pointed out,[32] his films are often admired by fellow directors as a showcase of the filmmaker's art. In The Rough Guide to Film, Tom Charity writes:

Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Powell and David Lean: the three great British filmmakers of their generation were born within a radius of fifty miles and just nine years apart. Each of them served an apprenticeship in the silent era, learned their craft from the bottom up, proved their mettle in their thirties, and hit a creative peak in middle age... Lean was first and foremost a superb craftsman. In the pre-war years he developed a reputation as the best editor in the country; his films are distinguished by their control of rhythm and shrewd use of counterpoint. Lean's camera is more self-effacing than Hitchcock's or Powell's, and although he was famed for his perfectionist compositional sense, his eye was more conventional. It's in the cutting that you feel both the romantic ardour and the repression that create the central tension in his work.[33]

Lean was also notorious for his perfectionist approach to filmmaking; director Claude Chabrol stated that he and Lean were the only directors working at the time who were prepared to wait "forever" for the perfect sunset, but whereas Chabrol measured "forever" in terms of days, Lean did so in terms of months.[34]

Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese in particular are fans of Lean's epic films and claim him as one of their primary influences. Spielberg and Scorsese also helped in the 1989 restoration of Lawrence of Arabia, which had been substantially altered both by the studio in theatrical release and in particular in its televised versions; the theatrical re-release greatly revived Lean's reputation.

Several of the many other later twentieth century directors who have acknowledged significant influence by Lean include Stanley Kubrick,[35] George Lucas,[36] Spike Lee,[37] and Sergio Leone.[38]

John Woo once named Lawrence of Arabia among his top three films.[39] More recently, Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) has cited Lean's works, particularly Doctor Zhivago, as an important influence on his work,[40] as has director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises).[41]

The critical verdict was not unanimous, however. For example, David Thomson, writing about Lean in his New Biographical Dictionary of Film, comments:

From 1952 to 1991, he made eight films—and in only one of them, I suggest —Lawrence—is the spectacle sufficient to mask the hollow rhetoric of the scripts. But Lean before 1952 made eight films in ten years that are lively, stirring, and an inspiration—they make you want to go out and make movies, they are so in love with the screen's power and the combustion in editing."[42]

The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther dismissed Lawrence of Arabia as "a huge, thundering camel-opera that tends to run down rather badly as it rolls on into its third hour and gets involved with sullen disillusion and political deceit",.[43] Writing about the same film in The Village Voice, Andrew Sarris remarked that Lawrence was "...simply another expensive mirage, dull, overlong, and coldly impersonal... on the whole I find it hatefully calculating and condescending..."[44]

Award and nominations

Academy Awards

Year Category Film Result
1947 Best Director Brief Encounter Nominated
1947 Best Adapted Screenplay Brief Encounter
(shared With Anthony Havelock-Allan & Ronald Neame)
1948 Best Director Great Expectations Nominated
1948 Best Adapted Screenplay Great Expectations
(shared With Anthony Havelock-Allan & Ronald Neame)
1956 Best Director Summertime Nominated
1958 Best Director The Bridge on the River Kwai Won
1963 Best Director Lawrence of Arabia Won
1966 Best Director Doctor Zhivago Nominated
1985 Best Director A Passage to India Nominated
1985 Best Adapted Screenplay A Passage to India Nominated
1985 Best Film Editing A Passage to India Nominated

Golden Globe Awards

Year Category Film Result
1958 Best Director The Bridge on the River Kwai Won
1963 Best Director Lawrence of Arabia Won
1966 Best Director Doctor Zhivago Won
1985 Best Director A Passage to India Nominated
1985 Best Screenplay A Passage to India Nominated

BAFTA Awards

Year Category Film Result
1949 Best British Film Oliver Twist Nominated
1953 Best Film from any Source The Sound Barrier Won
1953 Best British Film The Sound Barrier Won
1955 Best Film from any Source Hobson's Choice Nominated
1955 Best British Screenplay Hobson's Choice
(shared with Norman Spencer and Wynyard Browne)
1956 Best Film from any Source Summertime
(shared with Ilya Lopert)
1958 Best Film from any Source The Bridge on the River Kwai
(shared with Sam Spiegel)
1958 Best British Film The Bridge on the River Kwai
(shared with Sam Spiegel)
1963 Best Film from any Source Lawrence of Arabia
(shared with Sam Spiegel)
1963 Best British Film Lawrence of Arabia
(shared with Sam Spiegel)
1967 Best Film from any Source Doctor Zhivago
(shared with Carlo Ponti)
1971 Best Direction Ryan's Daughter Nominated
1985 Best Film A Passage to India
(shared with John Brabourne and Richard B. Goodwin)
1985 Best Adapted Screenplay A Passage to India Nominated

In 1974, Lean was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship.

Other awards and nominations

Year Award Film Result
1944 Silver Condor Award for Best Foreign Film In Which We Serve
(shared with Noël Coward)
1954 Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Hobson's Choice Won
1946 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix Brief Encounter Won
1949 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix The Passionate Friends Nominated
1966 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Doctor Zhivago Nominated
1967 David di Donatello for Best Foreign Director Doctor Zhivago Won
1958 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Feature Film The Bridge on the River Kwai Won
1963 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Feature Film Lawrence of Arabia Won
1971 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Feature Film Ryan's Daughter Nominated
1985 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Feature Film A Passage to India Nominated
1974 Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Film Ryan's Daughter Won
1946 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Blithe Spirit Won
1964 Nastro d'Argento for Best Foreign Director Lawrence of Arabia Won
1984 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director A Passage to India Won
1964 Kinema Junpo Award for Best Foreign Language Film Lawrence of Arabia Won
1952 National Board of Review Award for Best Director The Sound Barrier Won
1957 National Board of Review Award for Best Director The Bridge on the River Kwai Won
1962 National Board of Review Award for Best Director Lawrence of Arabia Won
1984 National Board of Review Award for Best Director A Passage to India Won
1985 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director A Passage to India 3rd place
1942 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director In Which We Serve 2nd place
1953 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director The Sound Barrier 3rd place
1955 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director Summertime Won
1957 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director The Bridge on the River Kwai Won
1965 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director Doctor Zhivago 2nd place
1984 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director A Passage to India Won
1948 Venice Film Festival Grand International Award Oliver Twist Nominated
1984 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay A Passage to India Nominated


  1. ^ Bergan, Ronald (2006). Film. London: Doring Kindersley. p. 321. ISBN 978-1-4053-1280-6.
  2. ^ Indiana Jones' Influences: Inspirations. TheRaider.net. Retrieved on 2011-05-29.
  3. ^ The Kubrick Site FAQ. Visual-memory.co.uk. Retrieved on 2011-05-29.
  4. ^ a b Collins, Andrew (4 May 2008). "The epic legacy of David Lean". Newspaper feature. London: The Observer. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  5. ^ Ridley Scott's Brilliant First Film. newyorker.com (28 May 2012). Retrieved on 2017-09-07.
  6. ^ The directors’ top ten directors. Bfi.org.uk (5 September 2006). Retrieved on 2011-05-29.
  7. ^ The BFI 100: 1–10. Bfi.org.uk (6 September 2006). Retrieved on 2011-05-29.
  8. ^ The BFI 100: 11–20 Archived 3 June 2004 at the Wayback Machine Bfi.org.uk (6 September 2006). Retrieved on 2011-05-29.
  9. ^ a b c Smith, Julia Llewelyn. "Sandra Cooke: 'I always liked asking about his other women'". London: The Independent. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  10. ^ Brownlow, Kevin (1996). David Lean: A Biography. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 39. ISBN 0312168101.
  11. ^ the Guardian, April 17, 1991
  12. ^ Phillips, Gene D. (2006). Beyond the Epic: The Life & Films of David Lean. Lexington, Kentucky, USA: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813124155.
  13. ^ Collins, Andrew. "The epic legacy of David Lean". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media Limited. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  14. ^ Sloman, Tony (1999). "Obituary: Harold Kress", The Independent, 26 October 1999. Online version retrieved 8 April 2009.
  15. ^ Shipman, David (1984). The Story of Cinema Volume Two: From Citizen Kane to the Present. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 775.
  16. ^ Beyond the Epic: The Life and Films of David Lean, University Press of Kentucky, 2006, pp.135–36
  17. ^ Phillips, p.139
  18. ^ Thomson, David (10 May 2008). "Unhealed wounds". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  19. ^ [1]. "Paul Greengrass: David Lean Lecture|BAFTA". Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  20. ^ Wolcott, James (April 1997). "Waiting for Godard". Vanity Fair (Conde Nast)
  21. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvB-u7vVZus
  22. ^ [2] Archived 5 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ McGee, Scott. "A Passage to India". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  24. ^ Kerr, Walter (1985). "Films are made in the Cutting Room", New York Times, 17 March 1985. Online version retrieved 15 November 2007.
  25. ^ http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/a-passage-to-india-1984
  26. ^ "How we made Hobson's Choice". Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  27. ^ "The Hyderabad connection". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 21 May 2008.
  28. ^ "Brief encounters: How David Lean's sex life shaped his films". London: The Independent. 29 June 2008.
  29. ^ David Lean Foundation Archived 20 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine. David Lean Foundation (18 July 2005). Retrieved on 2011-05-29.
  30. ^ "New faces on Sgt Pepper album cover for artist Peter Blake's 80th birthday". The Guardian. 5 October 2016.
  31. ^ "Sir Peter Blake's new Beatles' Sgt Pepper's album cover". BBC. 8 November 2016.
  32. ^ Brownlow, p. 483
  33. ^ "TSPDT - David Lean". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  34. ^ "David Lean - Great Director profile". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  35. ^ http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/polls-surveys/stanley-kubrick-cinephile
  36. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/film/2008/may/04/features
  37. ^ http://www.vulture.com/2015/02/spike-lee-12-cultural-influences.html
  38. ^ http://exclaim.ca/film/article/good_bad_ugly-sergio_leone
  39. ^ Perce Nev, BBC. Retrieved 17 May 2007
  40. ^ Times Online report Archived 16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ http://www.thehollywoodnews.com/2012/07/31/christopher-nolan-reveals-five-films-that-influenced-the-dark-knight-rises/
  42. ^ Thomson, David (2002). The New Biographical Dictionary of Film. London & New York: Little, Brown & Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 503–4.
  43. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=950CEEDE1630EF3BBC4F52DFB4678389679EDE
  44. ^ https://greencardamom.github.io/BooksAndWriters/telawren.htm


  • Alain Silver and James Ursini, David Lean and his Films, Silman-James, 1992.
  • Kevin Brownlow, David Lean, Faber & Faber, 1997.
  • Silverman, Stephen M., David Lean, Harry N. Abrams, 1989.
  • Santas, Constantine, The Epics Films of David Lean, Scarecrow Press, 2011
  • Turner, Adrian The Making of David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (Dragon's World, Limpsfield UK, 1994)
  • Turner, Adrian Robert Bolt: Scenes from two lives (Hutchinson, London 1998)
  • Williams, Melanie, David Lean, (Manchester University Press, 2014)
  • Morris, L. Robert and Lawrence Raskin, Lawrence of Arabia: the 30th Anniversary Pictorial History, Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1992

Further reading

External links

Preceded by
Richard Attenborough, CBE
NFTS Honorary Fellowship Succeeded by
Nick Park, CBE
A Passage to India (film)

A Passage to India is a 1984 British epic historical drama film written, directed and edited by David Lean. The screenplay is based on the play of the same name by Santha Rama Rau, which was based on the 1924 novel of the same name by E.M. Forster.

Set in the 1920s during the period of the British Raj, the film tells the story of the interactions of several characters in the fictional city of Chandrapore, namely Dr. Aziz, Mrs Moore, Adela Quested, and Richard Fielding. When newcomer to India Adela accuses Aziz of an attempted rape within the famed Marabar Caves, the city is split between the British elite and the native underclass as the budding friendship between Aziz and Fielding is tested. The film explores themes of racism, imperialism, religion, and the nature of relationships both friendly and marital.

This was the final film of Lean's prestigious career, and the first feature-film he had directed in fourteen years, since Ryan's Daughter in 1970. Receiving universal critical acclaim upon its release with many praising it as Lean's finest since Lawrence of Arabia, A Passage to India received eleven nominations at the Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Lean, and Best Actress for Judy Davis for her portrayal as Adela Quested. Peggy Ashcroft won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as Mrs Moore, making her, at 77, the oldest actress to win the award, and Maurice Jarre won his third Academy Award for Best Original Score.

BAFTA Award for Best Film

The BAFTA Award for Best Film is given annually by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and presented at the British Academy Film Awards. It has been given since the 1st BAFTA Awards, representing the best films of 1947, but until 1969 it was called the BAFTA Award for Best Film From Any Source. It is possible for films from any country to be nominated, although British films are also recognised in the category BAFTA Award for Best British Film and (since 1983) foreign-language films in BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language. As such, there have been multiple occasions of a film being nominated in two of these categories.

There has been one tie for the Best Film award when, in 1962, Ballad of a Soldier tied with The Hustler for Best Film from any Source. Until 1981, the award was given to the director, except in 1976 and 1977, when it was given to the producers. From 1981 to 1985, it was given solely to the producers, and then in 1986, it was shared between the Director and Producer. In 1998, it was once again given to only the producers.

In the following lists, the titles and names in bold with a dark grey background are the winners and recipients respectively; those not in bold are the nominees. The years given are those in which the films under consideration were released, not the year of the ceremony, which always takes place the following year.

BFI Top 100 British films

In 1999, the British Film Institute surveyed 1,000 people from the world of British film and television to produce the BFI 100 list of the greatest British films of the 20th century. Voters were asked to choose up to 100 films that were 'culturally British'. The list also includes two non-British films, namely My Left Foot and The Commitments.

Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter is a 1945 British romantic drama film directed by David Lean about British suburban life on the eve of World War 2, centering on Laura, a married woman with children, whose conventional life becomes increasingly complicated because of a chance meeting at a railway station with a married stranger, Alec. They fall in love, bringing about unexpected consequences.

The film stars Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway and Joyce Carey. The screenplay is by Noël Coward, based on his 1936 one-act play Still Life. The soundtrack prominently features the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff, played by Eileen Joyce.

Brief Encounter was met with wide praise from critics upon its release, and is today considered to be among Lean's finest works. It has been credited as an important early work of realist cinema for its small scale and the lack of big-name stars in its cast. In 1999, the British Film Institute voted Brief Encounter the second 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 twelfth best British film ever.The voice-over throughout the film is in the form of an unspoken confession from Laura to her husband.

Croydon Clocktower

Croydon Clocktower is an arts and museum complex located on Katharine Street in Croydon, London.

The venue contains the Museum of Croydon, the David Lean Cinema, which offers a regular programme of art house and independent films, a Youth Ambassadors group, aimed at bringing more young people to the Clocktower, and a café and bar. The venue also contains the Braithwaite Hall, which was used for concerts, theatre and children's shows, until 2011 when its funding was cut by the Council, and it lost its Arts Council RFO status.

The centre is owned and run by Croydon Council, and also houses Croydon's Central Library. The building links into the Town Hall and some areas of the building, most notably the Braithwaite Hall, are part of the original town hall and library complex, built in 1892–1896 to a design by Charles Henman.The Clocktower is the tower of the Town Hall. New buildings were built alongside the Town Hall and were opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. A notable early success was the Picasso exhibition in March to May 1995 named Picasso's Croydon Period.

David Lean Cinema

The David Lean Cinema is a small cinema built in Croydon, London, in the 1990s, to honour the director David Lean, who was born in the town. It is located within the Croydon Clocktower arts complex on Katharine Street.

The David Lean Cinema is described as a small, intimate, art house-style cinema which showcases the best of British film and World cinema as well as classic re-releases and recent favourites. The cinema closed for three years between 2011 and 2014, during which time films continued to be shown under the David Lean banner at the Fairfield Halls and the Spread Eagle pub. The cinema was reopened as a result of a local campaign.

David Lean bibliography

A list of books and essays about David Lean:

Brownlow, Kevin (15 August 1996). David Lean: A Biography. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-4668-3237-4.

Lean, David (2009). David Lean: Interviews. Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-60473-235-1.

Phillips, Gene (24 November 2006). Beyond the Epic: The Life and Films of David Lean. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-7155-5.

Santas, Constantine (22 September 2011). The Epic Films of David Lean. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-8211-9.

Silverman, Stephen M. (1992). David Lean. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-8109-2507-6.

Doctor Zhivago (film)

Doctor Zhivago is a 1965 British-Italian epic romantic drama film directed by David Lean. It is set in Russia between the years prior to World War I and the Russian Civil War of 1917–1922, and is based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel Doctor Zhivago. While immensely popular in the West, the book was banned in the Soviet Union for decades. For this reason, the film could not be made in the Soviet Union and was instead filmed mostly in Spain.

The film stars Omar Sharif in the title role as Yuri Zhivago, a married physician whose life is irreversibly altered by the Russian Revolution and subsequent Civil War, and Julie Christie as his married love interest Lara Antipova. The supporting cast includes Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Tom Courtenay, Ralph Richardson, Siobhán McKenna and Rita Tushingham.

Contemporary critics were generally disappointed, complaining of its length at over three hours, and claiming that it trivialized history, but acknowledging the intensity of the love story and the film's treatment of human themes. Over time, however, the film's reputation has improved greatly. At the 38th Academy Awards, Doctor Zhivago won five Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design; it was nominated for five others (including Best Picture and Best Director), but lost four of these five to The Sound of Music. It also won five awards at the 23rd Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama for Sharif.

As of 2016, it is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the United States and Canada, adjusted for ticket-price inflation. In 1998, it was ranked by the American Film Institute 39th on their 100 Years... 100 Movies list, and by the British Film Institute the following year as the 27th greatest British film of all time.

Golden Globe Award for Best Director

The Golden Globe Award for Best Director has been presented annually by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, an organization composed of journalists who cover the United States film industry for publications based outside North America, since 1943.

Having won all four of his nominations, Elia Kazan has been honored most often in this category. Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, David Lean, Miloš Forman, and Oliver Stone tie for second place with three wins each. Steven Spielberg has had the most nominations (twelve) and has received the award twice. Barbra Streisand is the only woman to have won the award.

In the following lists, the first names, listed in bold type against a blue background, are the winners, and the following names are the remaining nominees. The years given are those in which the films under consideration were released, not the year of the ceremony, which takes place in January of the following year.

Great Expectations (1946 film)

Great Expectations is a 1946 British film directed by David Lean, based on the novel by Charles Dickens and starring John Mills, Bernard Miles, Finlay Currie, Jean Simmons, Martita Hunt, Alec Guinness and Valerie Hobson. It won two Academy Awards (Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography) and was nominated for three others (Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay).

The script, a slimmed-down version of Dickens' novel – inspired after David Lean witnessed an abridged 1939 stage version of the novel, in which Guinness (responsible for the adaptation) had played Herbert Pocket, and Martita Hunt was Miss Havisham – was written by David Lean, Anthony Havelock-Allan, Cecil McGivern, Ronald Neame and Kay Walsh. Guinness and Hunt reprised their roles in the film, but the film was not a strict adaptation of the stage version. The film was produced by Ronald Neame and photographed by Guy Green. It was the first of two films Lean directed based on Dickens' novels, the other being his 1948 adaptation of Oliver Twist.

The film is now regarded as one of Lean's best; in 1999, on the British Film Institute's Top 100 British films list, Great Expectations was named the 5th greatest British film of all time.

Hobson's Choice (1954 film)

Hobson's Choice is a 1954 British romantic comedy film directed by David Lean. It is based on the play of the same name by Harold Brighouse. It stars Charles Laughton in the role of Victorian bootmaker Henry Hobson, Brenda De Banzie as his eldest daughter and John Mills as a timid employee. The film also features Prunella Scales in one of her first cinema roles as Vicky.

Hobson's Choice won the British Academy Film Award for Best British Film 1954.

In Which We Serve

In Which We Serve is a 1942 British patriotic war film directed by Noël Coward and David Lean. It was made during the Second World War with the assistance of the Ministry of Information.The screenplay by Coward was inspired by the exploits of Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was in command of the destroyer HMS Kelly when it was sunk during the Battle of Crete.

Coward composed the film's music as well as starring in the film as the ship's captain. The film also starred John Mills, Bernard Miles, Celia Johnson and Richard Attenborough in his first screen role.

In Which We Serve received the full backing of the Ministry of Information which offered advice on what would make good propaganda and facilitated the release of military personnel. The film remains a classic example of wartime British cinema through its patriotic imagery of national unity and social cohesion within the context of the war.

Lawrence of Arabia (film)

Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 epic historical drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel through his British company Horizon Pictures, with the screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson. Starring Peter O'Toole in the title role, the film depicts Lawrence's experiences in the Arabian Peninsula during World War I, in particular his attacks on Aqaba and Damascus and his involvement in the Arab National Council. Its themes include Lawrence's emotional struggles with the personal violence inherent in war, his own identity, and his divided allegiance between his native Britain and its army, and his new-found comrades within the Arabian desert tribes. As well as O'Toole, the film stars Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains and Arthur Kennedy.

Lawrence of Arabia was nominated for ten Oscars at the 35th Academy Awards in 1963; it won seven in total, including Best Picture and Best Director. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama and the BAFTA Awards for Best Film and Outstanding British Film. In the years since, it has been recognised as one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. The dramatic score by Maurice Jarre and the Super Panavision 70 cinematography by Freddie Young are also highly acclaimed. In 1991, Lawrence of Arabia was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected for preservation in the US Library of Congress National Film Registry. In 1998, the American Film Institute placed it 5th on their 100 Years...100 Movies list, and 7th on their 2007 updated list. In 1999, the British Film Institute named the film the third-greatest British film of all time.

Maurice Jarre

Maurice-Alexis Jarre (French: [ʒaʁ]; 13 September 1924 – 28 March 2009) was a French composer and conductor, "one of the giants of 20th-century film music" who was "among the most sought-after composers in the movie industry" and "a creator of both subtle underscoring and grand, sweeping themes, not only writing for conventional orchestras... but also experimenting with electronic sounds later in his career".Although he composed several concert works, Jarre is best known for his film scores, particularly for his collaborations with film director David Lean. Jarre composed the scores to all of Lean's films from Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on. Notable scores for other directors include The Train (1964), Mohammad, Messenger of God (1976), Lion of the Desert (1981), Witness (1985) and Ghost (1990).

Jarre was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Three of his compositions spent a total of 42 weeks on the UK singles chart; the biggest hit was "Somewhere My Love" (to his tune "Lara's Theme", with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster) by the Mike Sammes Singers, which reached Number 14 in 1966 and spent 38 weeks on the chart.

Jarre was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning three in the Best Original Score category for Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984), all of which were directed by David Lean. He also won four Golden Globes, two BAFTA Awards, and a Grammy Award.

Oliver Twist (1948 film)

Oliver Twist is a 1948 British film and the second of David Lean's two film adaptations of Charles Dickens novels. Following the success of his 1946 version of Great Expectations, Lean re-assembled much of the same team for his adaptation of Dickens' 1838 novel, including producers Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan, cinematographer Guy Green, designer John Bryan and editor Jack Harris. Lean's then-wife, Kay Walsh, who had collaborated on the screenplay for Great Expectations, played the role of Nancy. John Howard Davies was cast as Oliver, while Alec Guinness portrayed Fagin and Robert Newton played Bill Sikes.

In 1999, the British Film Institute placed it at 46th in its list of the top 100 British films. In 2005 it was named in the BFI list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14.

Ryan's Daughter

Ryan's Daughter is a 1970 British epic romantic drama film directed by David Lean. The film, set in August 1917 - January 1918, tells the story of a married Irish woman who has an affair with a British officer during World War I, despite moral and political opposition from her nationalist neighbours; it stars Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, John Mills, Christopher Jones, Trevor Howard and Leo McKern. The film is a re-telling of the plot of Gustave Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary.

The score was written by Maurice Jarre and the movie was photographed in Super Panavision 70 by Freddie Young. In its initial release, Ryan's Daughter was harshly received by critics but was a box office success, grossing nearly $31 million on a budget of $13.3 million, making the film the eighth highest-grossing picture of 1970. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and won in two categories.

Summertime (1955 film)

Summertime (released in the UK as Summer Madness) is a 1955 American/British Technicolor romance film directed by David Lean and starring Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi, Darren McGavin, and Isa Miranda. The screenplay by Lean and H.E. Bates is based on the play The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents.

The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 British-American epic war film directed by David Lean and based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwaï (1952) by Pierre Boulle. The film uses the historical setting of the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–1943. The cast included William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness, and Sessue Hayakawa.

It was initially scripted by screenwriter Carl Foreman, who was later replaced by Michael Wilson. Both writers had to work in secret, as they were on the Hollywood blacklist and had fled to England in order to continue working. As a result, Boulle, who did not speak English, was credited and received the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay; many years later, Foreman and Wilson posthumously received the Academy Award.The film was widely praised, winning seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) at the 30th Academy Awards. It used lush colour to bring out the British stiff upper lip of the colonel, played by Alec Guinness in an Oscar-winning performance. In 1997, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress. It has been included on the American Film Institute's list of best American films ever made. In 1999, the British Film Institute voted The Bridge on the River Kwai the 11th greatest British film of the 20th Century.

The Sound Barrier

The Sound Barrier (known in the United States, as Breaking Through the Sound Barrier and Breaking the Sound Barrier) is a 1952 British aviation film directed by David Lean. It is a fictional story about attempts by aircraft designers and test pilots to break the sound barrier. It was David Lean's third and final film with his wife Ann Todd, but it was his first for Alexander Korda's London Films, following the break-up of Cineguild. The Sound Barrier stars Ralph Richardson, Ann Todd, and Nigel Patrick.

The Sound Barrier was a box-office success on first release, but it has become one of the least-known of Lean's films. Following on In Which We Serve (1942), the film is another of Lean's ventures into a genre of filmmaking where impressions of documentary film are created.

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