Published on: 28 February 2018 in The Industry

Remembering Lewis Gilbert

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<i>AF Archive / Alamy Stock Photo</i>
AF Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Lewis Gilbert, a Directors UK member and the director of Alfie, Educating Rita, and three James Bond films.

Lewis Gilbert was born in Hackney in 1920, and in his early years he worked as a child actor before joining the RAF in the Second World War. His start behind the camera came at Gaumont British, where he directed a series of short documentaries including Sailors Do Care (1944) and The Ten Year Plan (1945). His break into feature film came in the 1950s, where he made use of his military experience directing films such as Reach for the Sky (1956), Carve her Name with Pride (1958) and Sink the Bismarck! (1960).

The 1960s, however, saw Gilbert produce some his best-known work. The iconic Alfie (1966), which was nominated for five Academy Awards, starred Michael Caine and was swiftly followed by the first of three Bond films he directed: You Only Live Twice (1967). Gilbert then returned to the James Bond franchise in the 1970s, directing both The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). He was eventually succeeded as Bond director by John Glen, who writes in tribute below.

In 1983 Gilbert worked with Michael Caine once more — this time on Educating Rita, which also starred an Oscar-nominated Julie Walters. He continued to direct feature films over the next twenty years, and was appointed CBE in 1997. In 2001 he was awarded a prestigious BFI Fellowship, just a year before directing his final film — the Julie Walters-led Before You Go.

Lewis Gilbert passed away on February 23 2018. He is survived by his two sons, John and Stephen.

Directors UK member John Glen has been in touch to share his memories of working with Lewis:

John Glen

Lewis Gilbert was one of the most successful directors of his generation. I had the pleasure of editing several of his films including The Spy Who Loved Me which must count as one of the best Bond movies starring the sadly missed Roger Moore.  I remember the scenes in Egypt where Lewis had served in World War II. He showed me some of his old haunts in Cairo, and we ate street food while the crew were suffering 5 Star cuisine at the hotel. He loved working with children.  In a scene from Cry from the Streets, a simple story of kids at an orphanage, Max Bygraves improvised a song for the kids when rain stopped play. Lewis will be remembered with affection by his crew. He was always understated, never angry and loved film making — though a bit absent minded sometimes: I remember him stepping backwards off a rostrum and falling through the scaffolding with barely a scratch.  Alfie with Michael Caine was a game-changer of its time. When I succeeded him as director of the next Bond after Moonraker, Lewis was the first person to call me and offer his congratulations. Such was the man.

John Glen is a film director and editor. He has directed five James Bond films: For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989). John worked with Lewis Gilbert several films including The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

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