January 2, 2017


Terence Young (1915-1994) b. Shanghai, China.

Terence Young

Shanghai-born Terence Young‘s work as a director has been fairly undistinguished apart from his contributions to the James Bond movies, which include the first and best of them, Dr. No (1962). He scripted some good war films in the early years of his career, but he has not usually contributed screenplays to films that he directed since embarking in earnest on a directorial career in 1948. In a way, this may have something to do with such a dismal record: Young seems to have had the misfortune to choose (or be assigned) a great many films whose scripts were so poor that few directors could have done much with them. Even though Young’s direction does tend towards the stodgy, better directors would have given up on such offerings as That Lady (1955), Safari (1956), Zarak (1956), Action of the Tiger (1957), Serious Charge (1959), No Time to Die (1958), The Poppy is Also a Flower (1966), The Rover (1967), Red Sun (1972), The Klansman (1974) and Bloodline (1979). The signs are that Young encouraged his players into stridently flamboyant playing in these movies to give them some kind of flavour. This concern with actors led him to gain personable performances from the leading players of the few decent screenplays he has found: Sean Connery in the Bond films, for example, and Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark (1967). Young began work as a scriptwriter at Elstree Studios at 21, his first credited solo screenplay being the film On the Night of the Fire (1940), with Ralph Richardson. He obtained his first experience of direction during his World War II military service. His career proper as a director picked up with the interesting, if studio-bound They Were Not Divided (1950) and the mountaineering drama Valley of the Eagles (1951), ironically two films that Young wrote himself. The Red Beret (1953), with Alan Ladd engendering some resentment at the time as yet another American helping Britain to win the war, is a better action film than contemporary critics allowed, but the years with Warwick Productions were by and large truly wretched ones, although they did prove Young had a talent for directing fierce action, and they introduced him to the team who were later to produce the Bond films. Young directed three of the first four 007 adventures, Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965). Such box-office blockbusters were understandably hard to follow and, although Young travelled far and wide in search of more hits, he was largely unsuccessful, even if his talent for the staging of colourful action scenes remained undiluted. He died from a heart attack.

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