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David Lean

David Lean

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Also Known As: Sir David Lean Died: April 16, 1991
Born: March 25, 1908 Cause of Death: double pneumonia compounded by throat cancer
Birth Place: Croydon, England, GB Profession: director, producer, screenwriter, clapper boy, editor, camera assistant, accountant, teaboy, messenger

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A consummate craftsman whose sweeping historical epics were mere backdrops for the larger-than-life characters that populated his films, director David Lean helmed some of the grandest movies ever made by Hollywood. After receiving his start as an editor, Lean segued into directing with smaller films like "Blithe Spirit" (1945) and "Brief Encounter" (1946), which often showed hints of the grand scale that was to come. Following excellent adaptations of Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" (1946) and "Oliver Twist" (1948), he went into a bit of a lull that nonetheless saw him make the compelling romantic drama "Summertime" (1955). But what followed was a series of three films that cemented his place as one of the greatest directors of all time, starting with "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" (1957), a widescreen WWII epic that displayed an unusual elegance despite its depiction of wartime prisoners suffering from a relentless and unyielding camp commander. Next was "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), an iconic historical drama about the adventures of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) that featured some of the most memorable images ever filmed, and went on to win numerous Academy Awards while earning its place as...

A consummate craftsman whose sweeping historical epics were mere backdrops for the larger-than-life characters that populated his films, director David Lean helmed some of the grandest movies ever made by Hollywood. After receiving his start as an editor, Lean segued into directing with smaller films like "Blithe Spirit" (1945) and "Brief Encounter" (1946), which often showed hints of the grand scale that was to come. Following excellent adaptations of Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" (1946) and "Oliver Twist" (1948), he went into a bit of a lull that nonetheless saw him make the compelling romantic drama "Summertime" (1955). But what followed was a series of three films that cemented his place as one of the greatest directors of all time, starting with "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" (1957), a widescreen WWII epic that displayed an unusual elegance despite its depiction of wartime prisoners suffering from a relentless and unyielding camp commander. Next was "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), an iconic historical drama about the adventures of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) that featured some of the most memorable images ever filmed, and went on to win numerous Academy Awards while earning its place as one of the greatest movies ever made. Lean followed this cinematic triumph with "Doctor Zhivago" (1965), a massive box office success that managed to tell a deeply intense personal romance set against the large scale turbulence off revolutionary Russia. After suffering a critical drubbing with his next film, "Ryan's Daughter" (1970), Lean waited 14 years to release his next film, "A Passage to India" (1984), which was a welcome return to the epic landscape previously occupied by "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia."

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  A Passage to India (1984) Director
2.
  Ryan's Daughter (1970) Director
3.
  Doctor Zhivago (1965) Director
4.
  Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Director
5.
6.
  Summertime (1955) Director
7.
  Hobson's Choice (1954) Director
8.
  The Sound Barrier (1952) Director
9.
  Madeleine (1950) Director
10.
  The Passionate Friends (1949) Director

CAST: (feature film)

3.
 Moscow in Madrid (1965)
9.
 Pasternak (1965)
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Milestones close milestones

:
Given Kodak Box Brownie camera by uncle at age 12, developed interest in photography
1927:
Worked for father's accounting firm at the age of 19 (date approximate)
1927:
Began working for Gaumont-British studios as tea-boy, then number-board holder, messenger and camera assistant
1930:
Graduated to newsreel editor; then put in charge of Gaumont Sound News
1935:
Began cutting feature films with "Escape Me Never"
1942:
First film as co-director (with Noel Coward), "In Which We Serve"
1944:
First film as solo director and first film as co-adaptor (with Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan), "This Happy Breed"
1942:
Formed Cineguild with Noel Coward, Ronald Neame 1nd Anthony Havelock-Allan
1974:
Subject of British TV documentary, "David Lean: A Life in Film"
1979:
TV directing debut: Lean directed and hosted a documentary on explorer Capt. James Cook, "The Story of Cook's Anchor" for New Zealand TV
1991:
Production of "Nostromo", his 17th film, halted when Lean became ill with throat cancer (February)
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Notes

Lean's films earned 56 Oscar nominations and 28 Oscars. He was nominated as Best Director seven times and won twice.

"He wrote with light and composition until each of his films was the visual equivalent of great novels. His genius rests in the fact that his characters were never diminished by his epic action." --Steven Spielberg in The Hollywood Reporter, April 17, 1991.

"David can't wait to finish shooting a picture so he can begin cutting the actors out of it." --Trevor Howard, quoted in Lean's Variety obituary, April 22, 1991.

"I had very strong feelings about his work, because I am a longer-is-better kind of guy. ... He was willing to let the stories and scenes play out. He liked you to hear information. ... [His films] are not so plot-oriented, they are like the journeys of people." --Kevin Costner to New York Post, April 17, 1991.

"David is sweet--simple and straight--and strong and savage, and he is the best movie director in the world." --Katharine Hepburn in 1989, quoted in Lean's obituary in The New York Times, April 17, 1991.

"Lean was a meticulous craftsman noted for technical wizardry, subtle manipulation of emotions, superb production values, authenticity and taste. He was one of the very few directors who edited his own films, and he also adapted or co-adapted half a dozen of them." --Peter B. Flint in Lean's The New York Times obituary, April 17, 1991.

Lean left orders that his ashes be strewn over the three areas he loved most: India, Tahiti and Tuscany (where he planned to retire).

Named Commander of the British Empire Award for services to cinema in 1953.

Awarded L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1968 by the French government

He was an honorary life member of the DGA.

He was made Fellow of the British Film Institute (1983).

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1984.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Isabelle Lean. First wife; mother of Lean's only child.
wife:
Kay Walsh. Actor. Married 1940, divorced 1949; appeared in Lean's "In Which We Serve" and "This Happy Breed".
wife:
Ann Todd. Actor. Married 1949, divorced 1957; appeared in Lean's "The Passionate Friends", "Madeleine" and "The Sound Barrier".
wife:
Leila Devi. Married in Paris 1960, divorced 1978.
wife:
Sandra Hotz. Divorced 1985.
wife:
Sandra Cooke. Interior designer. Born c. 1939; married December, 1990; met in 1985 at frozen-food department of Harrods.
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Family close complete family listing

father:
Francis William le Blount Lean. Chartered accountant. Married 1904, separated before 1927; Quaker; senior partner of accounting firm of Viney, Price and Goodyear in London.
mother:
Helena Annie Lean. Married 1904, separated before 1927; Quaker.
brother:
Edward Tangye Lean. Born c. 1911.
son:
Peter Lean. Mother Isabelle Lean.
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Bibliography close complete biography

"David Lean and His Films"
"David Lean" Harry N. Abrams Inc.
"David Lean: A Biography" St. Martin's Press

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