Lean, Sir David

Lean, Sir David
born March 25, 1908, Croydon, Surrey, Eng.
died April 16, 1991, London

British film director.

He worked at Gaumont Studios from 1928, becoming head film editor. He codirected In Which We Serve (1942) with Noë l Coward and was sole director of Coward's Blithe Spirit (1945) and Brief Encounter (1945). He directed film adaptations of Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948). Lean won wide acclaim for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, Academy Award) and later for Lawrence of Arabia (1962, Academy Award), Dr. Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984). His literate, epic productions featured spectacular cinematography and stunning locales.

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▪ British director and cinematographer
born March 25, 1908, Croydon, Surrey, Eng.
died April 16, 1991, London
 British film director whose literate, epic productions featured spectacular cinematography and stunning locales.

      Lean was the son of strict Quaker parents and did not see his first film until age 17. He began his film career in 1928 as a teaboy for Gaumont-British studios, where he soon was promoted to clapboard boy, and finally to editor, a position at which he excelled. By the end of the 1930s Lean was the most highly-paid film editor working in British cinema and widely regarded as the best. Until the end of his career, Lean considered editing the most interesting step in the filmmaking process and always contracted with studios to cut his own films.

      Lean's collaboration with playwright Noël Coward (Coward, Sir Noël) began in 1942 when they codirected the drama In Which We Serve. The success of this film allowed for the funding and formation of Cineguild, a production company helmed by Lean and cofounded by Coward, producer Anthony Havelock-Allan, and director-cinematographer Ronald Neame. The company's initial productions—three adaptations of Coward's stage plays—were Lean's first solo efforts as a director. The first of these, the domestic drama This Happy Breed (1944), is today seen as hopelessly dated because of Coward's patronizing treatment of the lower middle-class. The second was Coward's classic supernatural comedy Blithe Spirit (1945), regarded as a good effort but little more than a stage play on celluloid. The last of the Coward vehicles, the romantic melodrama Brief Encounter (1945; based on Coward's play Still Life), was a masterpiece and the first of many Lean films to employ the theme of private obsessions versus outward appearances.

      Two Charles Dickens (Dickens, Charles) classics served as source material for Lean's next efforts. Great Expectations (1946), which garnered Academy Award nominations for best director, picture, and screenplay, is still considered by many to be the finest screen adaptation of a Dickens novel. Oliver Twist (1948) is also highly regarded and features a memorable performance by Alec Guinness (Guinness, Sir Alec) as Fagin. In 1950 Cineguild disbanded, and Lean began working for British producer Alexander Korda at Shepperton Studios.

      Lean's films of the late 1940s and early '50s are regarded as good but unremarkable, highlighted by the standout performances of Charles Laughton (Laughton, Charles) in Hobson's Choice (1954) and Katharine Hepburn (Hepburn, Katharine) in Summertime (1955). He returned to prominence with the prisoner-of-war drama The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), a film noted for its psychological battles of will and taut action sequences. It won seven Academy Awards, including best picture and Lean's first as best director, and has been named to the Library of Congress National Film Registry, a national honour given to films deemed culturally, historically, and artistically significant. Because the movie was funded by a major American studio (Columbia (Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc.)), Lean for the first time in his career had the luxury of an extended shooting schedule, a large crew, technical amenities, and a prestigious cast. Its success insured that, for the remainder of his career, Lean would devote himself exclusively to big-budget epics.

      The story of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence, T E), a controversial British officer who led an Arab revolt against the German invasion during World War I, became the basis for Lawrence of Arabia (1962), often considered Lean's finest film. The film won seven Academy Awards, including best picture and director, and made international stars of actors Peter O'Toole (O'Toole, Peter) and Omar Sharif. Filming was arduous, conditions were hot and time-consuming, and production took 20 months to complete. The film is visually spectacular with grand expanses of textured, windblown sand, hundreds of charging camels shot by traveling dolly, and extreme close-ups of O'Toole's piercing blue eyes. Lawrence has been rereleased theatrically three times and was elected to the National Film Registry in 1991.

      Dr. Zhivago (1965), a love story set against a backdrop of the Russian Revolution, and the romantic Ryan's Daughter (1970) followed, both exhibiting the grand scale, lush cinematography, and breathtaking landscapes that had become the hallmark of Lean's work. Zhivago received mixed reviews but was a popular success; Ryan's Daughter was financially successful, but critics panned it. Lean was humiliated by the negative press and did not direct another film for 14 years. His last film, A Passage to India (1984), based on the E.M. Forster novel, was regarded as his best work since Lawrence of Arabia. Lean was knighted by Queen Elizabeth that year, and in 1990 he was awarded the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. At the time of his death, he was preparing a screen version of Joseph Conrad's novel Nostromo.

Additional Reading
Stephen M. Silverman, David Lean, updated ed. (1992).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lean,Sir David — Lean (lēn), Sir David. 1908 1991. British filmmaker. His works include The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), both of which won Academy Awards. * * * …   Universalium

  • Lean, Sir David — (25 mar. 1908, Croydon, Surrey, Inglaterra–16 abr. 1991, Londres). Director de cine británico. Desde 1928 comenzó a trabajar en los estudios Gaumont, donde se convirtió en editor general. Codirigió Sangre, sudor y lágrimas (1942) con Noë l Coward …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Sir David Lean — David Lean David Lean Naissance 25 mars 1908 Croydon  Royaume Uni Décès 16 avril 1991 Londres …   Wikipédia en Français

  • David — (rey de Israel) V. «lágrimas de David». * * * David. □ V. estrella de David, lágrimas de David. * * * Esta página se refiere al rey bíblico de Israel. Para otros significados del término véase David (desambiguación). David (דָּוִד Amado ) fue el… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Lean — Lean, Sir David (1908 91) a British film ↑director who made many well known films, such as ↑Brief Encounter (1945), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Dr Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984) …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • David Lean — This article is about the director. For the athlete, see David Lean (athlete). Sir David Lean CBE Born 25 March 1908(1908 03 25) Croydon, Surrey, England …   Wikipedia

  • sir — /serr/, n. 1. a respectful or formal term of address used to a man: No, sir. 2. (cap.) the distinctive title of a knight or baronet: Sir Walter Scott. 3. (cap.) a title of respect for some notable personage of ancient times: Sir Pandarus of Troy …   Universalium

  • David — /day vid/ for 1, 2, 5; Fr. /dann veed / for 3, 5; Sp. /dah veedh / for 4, 5, n. 1. died c970 B.C., the second king of Israel, reigned c1010 c970, successor to Saul: slayer of the Philistine giant Goliath. 2. Saint. Also called Dewi Sant. A.D.… …   Universalium

  • David Lean — Données clés Naissance 25 mars 1908 Croydon  Royaume Uni Décès 16 avril  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • David Lean — Sir David Lean KBE (* 25. März 1908 in Croydon; † 16. April 1991 in London) war ein britischer Filmregisseur. Berühmt wurde er vor allem durch Leinwandepen wie Lawrence von Arabien und Die Brücke am Kwai. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Filme …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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