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Ronald Neame

Ronald Neame

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Also Known As: Died: June 16, 2010
Born: April 23, 1911 Cause of Death: Natural causes/complications from fall
Birth Place: London, England, GB Profession: director, director of photography, screenwriter, producer, assistant cameraman, camera operator, actor, office boy, messenger

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Although he may not be as widely remembered as some of his contemporaries, cinematographer-turned-director Ronald Neame made important contributions to British cinema in a career that spanned seven decades. Even when he formally retired from making movies, he continued to impart his knowledge teaching classes at UCLA and recording commentary for DVD releases of his earlier work.It would seem almost an inevitability that this son of pioneer photographer Elwin Neame and actress Ivy Close would seek a career in motion pictures. Following his father's untimely 1927 death, Neame began working, eventually taking on a position as an office boy at British International Pictures. While he briefly had a foray into portrait photography, he soon decided he preferred shooting moving images and set about to work his way through the system, starting as a camera assistant on the 1929 Alfred Hitchcock-directed "Blackmail". Following a six-year apprenticeship as a camera operator, Neame graduated to full-fledge director of photography on the historical drama "Drake of England" (1935). Over the next decade, he would shoot numerous features ranging from "A Star Fell From Heaven" (1936) to "Penny Paradise" (1938) to...

Although he may not be as widely remembered as some of his contemporaries, cinematographer-turned-director Ronald Neame made important contributions to British cinema in a career that spanned seven decades. Even when he formally retired from making movies, he continued to impart his knowledge teaching classes at UCLA and recording commentary for DVD releases of his earlier work.

It would seem almost an inevitability that this son of pioneer photographer Elwin Neame and actress Ivy Close would seek a career in motion pictures. Following his father's untimely 1927 death, Neame began working, eventually taking on a position as an office boy at British International Pictures. While he briefly had a foray into portrait photography, he soon decided he preferred shooting moving images and set about to work his way through the system, starting as a camera assistant on the 1929 Alfred Hitchcock-directed "Blackmail". Following a six-year apprenticeship as a camera operator, Neame graduated to full-fledge director of photography on the historical drama "Drake of England" (1935). Over the next decade, he would shoot numerous features ranging from "A Star Fell From Heaven" (1936) to "Penny Paradise" (1938) to "Major Barbara" (1941) and "...One of Our Aircraft Is Missing" (1942).

During the height of WWII, Neame served as cinematographer on the undisputed masterpiece "In Which We Serve" (1942), about the crew of a British fighting ship, co-directed by Noel Coward and David Lean. For Neame, it began a working relationship with Lean in which he branched out into other areas of filmmaking. Serving as executive in charge of production, he oversaw the now classic romance "Brief Encounter" (1945), co-wrote and produced both "Blithe Spirit" (1945, also photographed) and "Great Expectations" (1946), and produced "Oliver Twist" (1948).

Neame stepped into the director's chair with the 1947 film "Take My Life" and went on to enjoy working with actor Alec Guinness in the comedies "The Card/The Promoter" (1952) and "The Horse's Mouth" (1958) and the superb war drama "Tunes of Glory" (1960). Over the course of his career, he proved a master with actors, guiding the Judy Garland vehicle "I Could Go On Singing" (1963, which hit rather close to home for its talented, if troubled star), and garnered praise for his handling of the eccentric Edith Evans in "The Chalk Garden" (1964). "Gambit" (1966) was a delightful caper comedy that teamed Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine and demonstrated his already well-honed comedic skills. Switching gears, Neame directed "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1969) and enjoyed one of his more successful ventures, steering leading lady Maggie Smith to a Best Actress Oscar as the fascistic Scottish schoolteacher.

With "Scrooge" (1970), Neame showed a flair for large screen musicals, although he did encourage star Albert Finney to overact some in the title role. The director perhaps enjoyed his biggest hit with the all-star disaster-themed "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972). Although in retrospect the film has taken hits for its weak script, Neame managed to make the proceedings tolerable and enjoyable. He went on to helm the spy thriller "The Odessa File" (1974) and two Walter Matthau comedies, "Hopscotch" (1980) and "First Monday in October" (1981) before ending his career on a relatively high note with the fine comedy "Foreign Body" (1986).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Magic Balloon, The (1990) Director
2.
  Foreign Body (1986) Director
3.
  First Monday in October (1981) Director
4.
  Hopscotch (1980) Director
5.
  Meteor (1979) Director
6.
  The Odessa File (1974) Director
7.
  The Poseidon Adventure (1972) Director
8.
  Scrooge (1970) Director
9.
10.
  Prudence and the Pill (1968) Uncredited addl dir (see note)

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Shelley Winters: Full Disclosure (2001) Interviewee
4.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1923:
After father's death, dropped out of school
:
Found employment as an office boy in an oil company
1927:
Joined British International Pictures as a messenger and general assistant
1928:
Began career as an assistant cameraman at Elstree Studios
:
Left the film industry briefly to set up business as a photographer
1929:
Feature debut, worked as assistant cameraman on "Blackmail", directed by Alfred Hitchcock
1935:
Debut as director of photography, "Drake of England/Drake the Pirate"; originally hired as camera operator then assumsed cinematography duties when Claude Friese-Greene left the production
:
Shot several productions including "Once in a Million/Weekend Millionaire", "Brief Ecstasy/Dangerous Secrets", "Penny Paradise" and "Trouble Brewing"
1941:
Served as director of photography on "Major Barbara". directed by Gabriel Pascal
1942:
Shot the Powell-Pressburger film "...One of Our Aircraft Is Missing"
1942:
Began association with David Lean as cinematographer on "In Which We Serve"
1945:
With Lean, co-wrote the film adaptation of Noel Coward's play "Blithe Spirit"; also served as cinematographer
1946:
Co-wrote script and did uncredited photography on "Great Expectations", directed by Lean
1947:
Feature directorial debut, "Take My Life"
1948:
Was a producer on Lean's film version of "Oliver Twist"
1952:
Directed the comedy "The Card/The Promoter", starring Alec Guinness as a resourceful young man out to climb the ladders of society
1956:
Helmed the engaging spy thriller "The Man Who Never Was"
1958:
Reunited with Guinness (who scripted as well as starred) for "The Horse's Mouth", based on Joyce Cary's novel about an extravagantly talented, sometimes monstrously behaved artist
1960:
Directed what is arguably his best film, "Tunes of Glory", focusing on the clash between two Scottish military men (played by Guinness and John Mills)
1963:
Helmed the Judy Garland vehicle "I Could Go On Singing"
1964:
Directed the film version of the stage play "The Chalk Garden", featuring Edith Evans in an Oscar-nominated performance
1966:
Was responsible for the studio scenes (shot in Rome) for the film "A Man Could Get Killed"
1966:
Helmed the delightful caper flick "Gambit", starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine
1968:
Did uncredited direction on "Prudence and the Pill"; replaced Fielder Cook
1969:
Helmed the film version of the hit play "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie"; star Maggie Smith earned her first Oscar
1970:
Directed the musical feature "Scrooge", adapted from the Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol"
1972:
Enjoyed commercial success with the all-star, disaster-themed movie "The Poseidon Adventure"
1974:
Directed the film adaptation of the Frederic Forsythe spy novel "The Odessa File"
1979:
Returned to disaster-themed popcorn flicks with the so-so "Meteor"
1980:
Guided the Walter Matthau-Glenda Jackson comedy "Hopscotch"
1981:
Reunited with Matthau for the comedy-drama "First Monday in October", about the first female Supreme Court justice
1986:
Final feature-length film, the comedy "Foreign Body"
1990:
Co-wrote and directed the promotional featurette "The Magic Balloon"
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Notes

For several years, Neame has taught a course on filmmaking at UCLA.

In 1971, he began pre-production on a biopic "Isabella of Spain", but the project was cancelled before lensing.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Beryl Yolanda Heanly. Married on October 15, 1933.
wife:
Donna Neame.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Elwin Neame. Photographer, director. Died in an automobile accident in 1923.
mother:
Ivy Close. Actor. Born in 1893; died in 1968; appeared in several British-produced films in the 1910s and 1920s.
brother:
Derek Neame. Screenwriter. Born in 1915; died in 1979.
son:
Christopher Neame. Screenwriter, producer, actor. Born in 1942.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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