Biography of David Lean (1908-1991)

British film director born in Croydon (Surrey, England), on May 25, 1908 and died in London (England) on April 16, 1991.


David Lean was educated in a strict religious environment in which films were banned. The curiosity was stronger than the prohibition, but is also agonizes over time security that there was the vocation of his life: the mid-1920s errand boy was approaching to the boards of Assembly, where gradually was getting familiar with the physical handling of films. Luck accompanied him from the beginning. The sound began to become hollow and read soon learned their demands, so that half of the 1930s he was considered one of the best editors of British cinema. He served this work over the Decade, taking charge of about twenty titles belonging to directors as Harry Lachman (Insult, 1932), Anthony Asquith (Pygmalion, 1938) or Mario Zampi (Spy for a Day, 1939). In the early 1940s he continued working with other directors, but then it was already prepared to lead their own titles. Lean was clear from the beginning how he should plan his career and initially rejected the leadership of some low-budget films, until it decided on Major Barbara in 1941, and though the adaptation of one of the most entertaining of Bernard Shaw, was not well received by the public. Rex Harrison and a debutante Deborah Kerr starred this comedy - for some very sophisticated - with the Salvation Army in the background. His second title, however, not only did not pass unnoticed but that marked the true beginning of his career. Noel Coward suggested to read co-direct with him his own work: blood, sweat and tears (1943) and the result was a splendid film, narrated with flashbacks, which recounted the second world war by a group of men who served in a combat ship. Coward also starred her opposite three newcomers: Richard Attenborough, Daniel Massey and Juliet Mills. Blood, sweat and tears won the NYFFC Prize for best film and was nominated for the Oscar in that category and the best screenplay. At the ceremony, Coward picked up an honorary award, but despite the recognition, there was also an attempt of manipulation which made the film to enter in the anecdotes of Hollywood. The Hays Code tried to that of the American version, they disappeared the words "God", "cursed" and "bastard". In response, the British Academy forced the Office to include them all less the last one, which was left to their choice.

In 1944 Lean directed life sends a script itself, but based on another work of Coward. The collaboration between the two would extend to two titles more: A mocking spirit (1945) and brief encounter (1946) and Lean was always carte blanche from Coward to carry out adaptations. This collaboration linking the interest of both the issues and stories of ordinary people, affected by developments that exceeded them: the period between the wars in a mocking spirit or ghost of adultery in brief encounter, film which earned him a nomination as a director and was awarded Grand Prize of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946. In its following projects Lean felt curiosity for another literary source. Charles Dickens was the provider of two consecutive titles: broken strings (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948). The first, based on the novel "Great expectations", is considered one of the best adaptations of a title's Dickens, and manages to capture master the spirit of the times and which moves the history. The film, which had the debutant Alec Guinness, won the Oscar for best art direction and photography. The version of "Oliver Twist" was again with the two winners in the previous title: Designer John Bryan and cinematographer Guy Green. The production had some initial problems, when Semitic groups protested by one of the characters, precisely the portrayed by Alec Guinness, who saw how disappeared seven minutes of his speech. The film, cropped, premiered in 1951 with John Howard Davies as Oliver Twist. Davies was to become later the famous television series producer: "Monty Python completo Flying Circus" and "Fawlty Towers".

In 1950 read literature becomes a real event: a sensationalist murder that took place in Scotland in the 19th century, and that freed the accused, if Madeleine Smith - whose own name gives title to the film-with a verdict of "not proven guilty". With a documentary tone, Lean tells the story of an obsessed aircraft manufacturer in the barrier of sound (1952) with some of its pilots to trespass the limit that gives the film its title. It is not one of the best works of Lean, but technological achievements became patents. Won an Oscar best sound and it was also nominated for best screenplay. Between 1953 and 1955 read adapted two plays. The first, the despot (1953) featured Charles Laughton, who had already interpreted the role years before in the scenarios, and despite their magnificent performance, given problems during filming, alienating the rest of the cast. This was the third time that he adapted the comedy by Harold Brighouse wrote in 1915 (in that same year he met a silent version in 1931, a sound). But it was the Lean's which won the BAFTA Award for best film. The second work was "The Time of The Cuckoo", from Arthur Laurents based, and was entitled follies of summer (1955). A romantic story set in Venice, with points in common with another title read: brief encounter, leaving patent chemistry established between Audrey Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi.

In 1957, it would start an invaluable streak which lasted almost a decade. Three titles directed one after another would mark the career of Lean definitely. The bridge on the River Kwai (1957) is for some a fable about the artificial tie that binds two cultures; for others, the best film of war that has never been done. The action and reflection merge brilliantly, driven by the character played by Alec Guinness. The screenwriters, Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, were banned in the credits by appearing in the black list. The Association "Writer completo Guild of America" would officially recover their names eleven years later. The film won seven Oscar: best actor (Alec Guinness), best cinematography, director, Assembly, original score, adapted screenplay and film. It would be five years until Lean directed his next success. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) combines the epic, romance and history in a portrait done for the magnificence of the big screen. Criticism and the public welcomed the birth of a legend, but not all were so pleased with the way in which he had painted the legendary T.H. Lawrence. His brother child, Arnold, said on American television in 1964 that the film seemed pretentious and false, and which had been used the following recipe: "take one ounce of narcissism, a pound of Exhibitionism, a pint of sadism, a gallon of thirst for blood and a sprinkling of other aberrations, and shake vigorously". Faithful or not to the person of Lawrence, the truth is that history caused a stir and the footage, also underwent several modifications. In 1989, opened a restored version that included 35 minutes that had been cut in two previous releases. The final version was with a length of 216 minutes. Lawrence of Arabia once again accumulate, like its predecessor, seven Oscar: art direction, photography, director, mount, soundtrack, best sound and best film. Actors Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif were left on the doorstep of the prize.

Dr. Zhivago (1965) was his third major success. The public responded and also won five Oscar, although the criticism was not very enthusiastic. This time the methodical treatment of the artistic direction was to come back against her from the point of view of the defenders of the content. With the adaptation of the novel by Boris Pasternak the director did not seem to seek to venture into the political content - that is present as a historical fact, but without defending ideology, but rather show a more or less pictorial view of the characters and their surroundings, doing that the details were which give body to the film. Precisely the music functioned as one of those essential elements; for some, even with too much presence. Maurice Jarre was responsible for that "Lara's Theme" became history, and won an Oscar for it. Dr. Zhivago began, however, making suspicious to criticism; at the end and at the end it was a small decline of success with respect to the two previous titles. And when in 1970 Lean premiered the daughter of Ryan, the tension that had kept Lean on top so far, fell sharply. The director had invested five years in developing another epic story with inclusive love triangle, rolling a whole year on the Dingle peninsula, the wettest place in Ireland, where it was even only get one minute of running valid time in ten working days. The result was catastrophic. Critics found it a sea of defects and was Wroth. Lean, that it had been during the 1960s one of the directors that gave more money to the industry, came down and turned away from the screens. It took fourteen years to recover, and did so at age 75, with a novel by E.M. Forster. Judy Davis and Peggy Ashcroft starred a story about sexual repression and racial prejudice in the India of the mid 1920s. Read tried to demonstrate, for reparation of criticism already received in Dr. Zhivago, a great novel could take the film and become a great film. So the director personally dealt with writing the adaptation, a task that on other occasions, the screenwriter Robert Bolt had occupied. Passage to the India thus became a film evocative, full of exoticism and charm, but also tragedy; able to retain, in addition, the mystery that remained unsolved in the novel. The public and the critics returned to read the place that for so long it had snatched him and this recovered the desire to return to be a filmmaker. Only that it turned out to be too late. Lean died when he was preparing his next film, Nostromo, based on the novel by Joseph Conrad.


As director: 1941: Major Barbara (and mounting). 1942: blood, sweat and tears (and mounting and co-direction). 1943: life manda (and screenplay). 1944: A mocking spirit (and screenplay). 1945: brief encounter (and screenplay). 1946: broken chains (and screenplay). 1947: Oliver Twist (and screenplay). 1949: The Passionate Friends.1950: Madeleine.1952: the barrier of sound (and production). 1953: despot (screenplay and production).1955: Follies of summer (and screenplay). 1957: the bridge over the River Kwai.1962: Lawrence of Arabia.1965: Doctor. Zhivago.1970: The daughter of Ryan.1984: passage to the India (and screenplay).

As Editor: 1931: These Charming People.1932: Insult.1933: Song of the Plough; Money for Speed; Matinee Idol; The Ghost Camera.1934: Tiger Bay; The Secret of the Loch, Java Head.1935: Turn of the tide; Escape Me Never.1936: Ball at the Savoy; As You Like It.1937: The Last Adventure; Dreaming Lips.1938; Pigmalion.1939: Spy for a Day; French Without Tears.1940: Spies of the Air.1941: 49th Parallel.1942: One of Our Aircraft is Missing.

As Assistant Director: 1928: High Treason.

Cristina Manzano