Today we learnt of the sad news that Guy Hamilton, who directed Goldfinger and three other James Bond films, died yesterday at the age of 93.
Hamilton was born in Paris on 16 September 1922, where his English parents were living. His first exposure to the film industry came in 1938 when he was the clapper board boy at the Victorine Studios in Nice. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Hamilton returned to London and worked in the film library at Paramount News before joining the Royal Navy.
Shortly after the war, Hamilton returned to the film industry as an assistant director on three Carol Reed films: 1948’s The Fallen Idol, 1949’s The Third Man (Hamilton acted as Orson Welles’s double for a couple of the long shots) and 1951’s Outcast of the Islands. Hamilton held Reed in high esteem and it was Reed who was instrumental in getting Hamilton his first director position on the B-movie The Ringer in 1952.
Hamilton spent the early part of the 1950s creating films focused on military stories such as 1953’s film The Intruder (his second film as director) dealing with returning soldiers to civilian life and 1955’s prisoner of war story The Colditz Story (which was to be Hamilton’s high grossing movie of the 1950s).
Less successful films of the 1950s included An Inspector Calls in 1954 (with Alastair Sim), 1956’s musical comedy Charley Moon and Manuela in 1957.
He had his first experience of bigger budget films towards the end of the decade when he replaced the sacked Alexander Mackendrick on the set of The Devil’s Disciple featuring Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster.
In 1961, Hamilton again found himself working on with a war theme on the Dino de Laurentiis-produced Italian war comedy The Best of Enemies. The film first showed Hamilton’s skill at filming intricate set-piece action sequences.
In 1962, he turned down an offer to direct Dr. No, the first James Bond. His next release, and somewhat outside his developing œuvre, was The Party’s Over, which, though filmed in 1963, was not released until 1965. The film was heavily censored and Hamilton asked for his name to be removed, when the film was finally released, in protest.
Hamilton directed his first James Bond film – Goldfinger – in 1964. His directorial style successfully merged the distinctive mix of action adventure, sexual innuendo and black humour that audiences loved. In the late 1960s, Hamilton directed two further films for Bond producer Harry Saltzman: 1966’s Funeral in Berlin with Michael Caine and the war epic Battle of Britain, in 1969.
Hamilton returned to the Bond film franchise in 1971 with the chase and heavily gadget-dependent Diamonds Are Forever, 1973’s Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974.
Hamilton’s only films in the latter part of the 1970s were the commercially unsuccessful Force 10 from Navarone in 1978 and the poorly received adaptation of Agatha Christie’s mystery The Mirror Crack’d in 1980.
Hamilton was originally chosen to direct Superman: The Movie in 1978, but, due to his status as a tax exile, he was only allowed to be in England for thirty days, where production had moved at the last minute, to Pinewood Studios. The job of director was then passed to Richard Donner, but Hamilton insisted he be paid in full.
Another Christie adaptation followed in 1981 with Evil Under the Sun which was better received than The Mirror Crack’d. Hamilton directed only two more films in the 1980s (Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins in 1985 and 1989’s Try This One for Size) before retiring.
In the late 1980s Guy Hamilton was also approached to direct Batman but declined.
In a 2003 interview, he claimed he had instructed Roger Moore not to mimic Sean Connery’s rendition of James Bond. He also complained that the contemporary Bond films relied too heavily on special effects and not as much on the spectacular and risky stunts of the Bond films of his era.
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