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  1. #1
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    British film director Clive Donner dies at 84.Film director Clive Donner, who helped launch the careers of actors such as Sir Ian McKellen and Alan Bates, has died at the age of 84.

    He had Alzheimer's and died in London, his family said.

    He was best known for a series of 1960s films including Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush and What's New Pussycat.

    Donner then moved to Los Angeles to work in TV, where his credits included an adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel starring Sir Ian and Jane Seymour.

    He also directed TV adaptations of Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol and spoof movie, Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen, starring Peter Ustinov, Angie Dickinson and Michelle Pfeiffer.

    What's New Pussycat, which was released in 1965, featured Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole, Woody Allen and Ursula Andress in the leading roles.

    Career boost

    Allen also wrote the screenplay, while Burt Bacharach composed the music.

    Donner's cousin Gavin Asher said the director began his career at Pinewood Studios when he was 15 years old.

    "One of the things he was most proud of was what he did for the careers of quite a lot of British actors including Alan Bates, David Hemmings and Ian McKellen," said Asher.

    "A lot of them went on to eclipse his fame and success but he was very giving in that sense."

    Donner's wife, costume designer Jocelyn Rickards, died five years ago. They had no children.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Country: Great Britain
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    This is from the Guardian:

    Clive Donner obituary

    Director who captured swinging London's zeitgeist and remade classics for television

     Ronald Bergan

    ,Tuesday 7 September 2010 18.44 BST

    For a few years in the 1960s, Clive Donner, who has died aged 84 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was among the leading film directors of swinging London. Unfortunately, when London stopped swinging, so did Donner. The four films that made his name were a low-budget adaptation of Harold Pinter's play The Caretaker (1963); Nothing But the Best (1964), a wicked satire on the British class structure; the farcical What's New Pussycat? (1965); and the coming-of-age comedy Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1968).

    Already in his 30s when he started directing, Donner gained a reputation for being tuned in to "youth". His debut movie, The Secret Place (1957), a heist drama shot on location in the East End, had David McCallum as a Brandoesque leather-jacketed "crazy mixed-up kid".

    The Heart of a Child (1958) concerned a boy and his St Bernard dog, Rudi, in the Alps. When his father (unpleasant Donald Pleasence) decides to sell the pet to the local butcher, the dog runs away. "Rudi, come home! I won't let them turn you into sausages!" the boy cries.

    Some People (1962), filmed on location in Bristol, was unabashed publicity for the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme ˆ with its profits going to that organisation. It centred on three alienated youths who are encouraged by a liberal-minded choirmaster, Mr Smith (Kenneth More), to form a rock band.

    Donner was born in West Hampstead, London. His grandparents were Polish immigrants, his father was a concert violinist and his mother ran a dress shop. Aged 17, after leaving Kilburn polytechnic and starting work as an office clerk, he went to Denham Studios, in Buckinghamshire, for one of his father's recording sessions for The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943).

    Michael Powell, the film's director, got the young man a job in the cutting rooms there. Donner worked on a number of films before national service in the Royal Army Educational Corps, and then gained experience at nearby Pinewood Studios as an editor on such films as Scrooge (1951), The Card (1952) and Genevieve (1953). After directing his first features, Donner worked in television while struggling to get The Caretaker made. Finally, a consortium including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Noël Coward and Peter Sellers put up a minimum of £1,000 each.

    The film starred Alan Bates and Pleasence, who had created the roles on stage, and it won the silver bear at the 1963 Berlin Film Festival. Faithful to the claustrophobic comic menace of the stage play, with Donner's use of closeups and the atmospheric black-and-white cinematography by Nicolas Roeg, it avoids the label of filmed theatre.

    Nothing But the Best, written by Frederic Raphael, starred Bates as an opportunistic young clerk who wants to crash into the upper classes. He is taught by Denholm Elliott, a down-at-heel gent, to pass himself off as a toff. Shot in bright colours by Roeg, the film captures the 60s' shallow glitter.

    Heralded by Tom Jones in Burt Bacharach's title song, What's New Pussycat? is a wildly undisciplined sex comedy with Peter Sellers as a crazy psychiatrist, and a bevy of "pussycats", called such by Peter O'Toole, the libidinous hero. Woody Allen, who is credited with the screenplay and makes his feature film debut, loathed it, claiming that his script was butchered. It was a huge box office success, and Donner's biggest hit.

    It was followed by Luv (1967), his biggest flop. Extremely bankable after Pussycat, Donner was invited to Hollywood to direct Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk and Elaine May in an adaptation of Murray Schisgal's Broadway three-hander. Disastrously opened out, it was played and directed in a leaden manner.

    Donner's next project, back in Britain, was Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, written by Hunter Davies and set in the Hertfordshire new town of Stevenage, where Barry Evans is the 17-year-old virgin desperate to get laid in the new sexually permissive society. Now dated, though about to be released on DVD, it reflects many of the mores, modes and music of the period.

    Alfred the Great (1969) was an ambitious attempt to escape into the past, though David Hemmings carried over his trendy Blow-Up image into his portrayal of the 9th-century king of the Anglo-Saxons, faced with Michael York as the savage Viking Guthrum. The epic failed to please the critics and the public, but at least enabled Donner to meet Australian-born Jocelyn Rickards, who designed its costumes. They were married soon after, and remained so until her death in 2005.

    Active as a director of TV commercials and movies till the mid-90s, Donner returned intermittently to feature films. The TV movies were mostly remakes of better films, such as Oliver Twist (1982) and A Christmas Carol (1984), both with a hammy George C Scott as Scrooge and Fagin respectively. However, Rogue Male (1976), a remake of Fritz Lang's Man Hunt (1941), was one of Donner's best, and his favourite. Well-paced and well-written, again by Raphael, it starred O'Toole as an aristocrat who plans to assassinate Hitler before war becomes inevitable.

    The features were a diverse bunch: a Dracula spoof, Vampira (1974), starring a bloodless David Niven, whose castle has been taken over by Playboy bunnies; The Nude Bomb (1980), a spin-off of the 60s sitcom Get Smart; the embarrassing Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981), with Peter Ustinov as the oriental detective; and Stealing Heaven (1988), a soft-focus erotic telling of the story of the 12th-century lovers Heloise and Abelard.

    Donner got more satisfaction out of his one opportunity to direct a stage play, in 1974, with Kennedy's Children by Robert Patrick, at the King's Head pub theatre in Islington, north London. It transferred to the Arts theatre in the West End, and then to Broadway. Written in alternating monologues, the play concerned five people in a New York bar reminiscing about the 60s and the downward spiral of their lives since the days of youthful idealism ˆ something Donner must have understood.

     Clive Stanley Donner, film director, born 21 January 1926; died 6 September 2010

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: United States will.15's Avatar
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    I would disagree that George C. Scott was hammy as Scrooge and think that it's the second best Scrooge adaptation (after the Alastair Sim).

    Otherwise, as the article points out, he seems to have been a director who started well, but quickly petered out. He actually may have been miscast as a comedy director. What's New Pussycat is often hilarious thanks to some good Woody Allen jokes and an outstanding Peter Sellers, but is otherwise messily made. His later comedies are limp, but he often showed more skill in drama.

    It's a complete mystery to me why they even tried to film Luv. I have a recording of the stage version with the original cast and I have no idea why it was well received. The characters are all unpleasant and it's not funny. No director could have made a good movie from it, although I suppose a Mike Nichols would have at least made it technically better.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Country: Fiji
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    I am sad to hear that Clive Donner had been so poorly with Alzheimer's and has now passed away. Donner cut his directorial teeth on the half-hour Danger Man series and made a very good job of his episodes I always thought.

    Have to agree with Will that the 1984 George C. Scott adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL was really rather good.



  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: UK wellendcanons's Avatar
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    Very sad to hear this news. Clive was an excellent director. Another terrible illless that I wish we could find a permanent cure for.

    R.I.P. Clive Donner.


  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: UK Windthrop's Avatar
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    RIP Clive

    The Guardian Obiturist forgot to mention that The Rogue Male was based on a (famous) novel by Geoffrey Household and not just a remake of the Lang version

  7. #7
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    He was the first director I worked with....although that's to exaggerate things a bit. I was on my way to school in Cambridge one morning when he stopped my friend and myself and asked us to walk along the other side of the road (King's Parade) so that we could be seen in shot while Alan Bates went past us at speed on a bicycle. I saw the film many years later...and that scene had been cut !

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    Clive Donner: Film and television director best known for 'The Caretaker' and 'What's New Pussycat?'

    Thursday, 9 September 2010


    Clive Donner directed for both film and television, and his work includes some "swinging London" comedies. But his lasting legacy includes perhaps the definitive versions of Pinter's The Caretaker and Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male.

    Donner's mother ran a dress shop while his father was a violinist who played on the soundtrack of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), and the film's director Michael Powell levered the young Donner into Denham Studios' editing room. Donner's national service ran from 1944-47 and included a stint in the Education Corps, which may account for his later facility in working with young people.

    Demobbed, Donner moved to Pinewood to work with David Lean and Ronald Neame. Editing films like Madeleine (1950), Scrooge (1951) and Genevieve (1953) eventually led to a directing contract from Rank. In 1957 he directed his first film, A Secret Place, about a policeman's son who is tricked into lending his father's uniform to a gang of crooks. Shot on location in the East End, it climaxes in an exciting chase through a huge building site.

    Donner's career witnessed some dizzying changes of direction, and the following year's Heart of a Child was an Alpine children's film in which a boy saves his dog from being put down. Donald Pleasence, who plays the canicidal father, would later star in Donner's first big success.

    Despite these moderate successes, Donner found it difficult to sustain a film career and spent some time directing for television, including serials like Danger Man as well as adverts, all of which brought him some recognition. In 1962 he returned to the cinema with Some People, in which four Bristolian teenagers are brought back on to the straight and narrow when their music teacher (Kenneth More) encourages them to form a rock band. In this they are helped by the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, which enjoyed a slice of the film's profits.

    Donner's next film, Pinter's bleak and semi-absurdist The Caretaker, was his greatest success to date. Donner had not directed the stage production, but it was obvious that he should cast two of its stars, Alan Bates and Donald Pleasence, while Robert Shaw, who had joined them on Broadway, replaced Peter Woodthorpe. Though the play had been successful (Harold Hobson praised the way that Pleasence captured Davies's "blustering pitifulness"), and Pinter had written the adaptation, they had difficulty in raising finance until an intervention from angels including Noël Coward, Peter Sellers, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Their perspicacity paid off, the film winning a Silver Bear at Berlin. The Caretaker was claustrophobically shot by the future director Nic Roeg, and he and Bates rejoined Donner for Frederic Raphael's Nothing But the Best (1964), a blackly satirical Pygmalion story about an estate agent who wants to pass himself off as posh.

    The sex-farce What's New Pussycat? (1965) is now chiefly remembered for Tom Jones belting out Bacharach and David's theme song. Peter O'Toole plays a hopeless womaniser who seeks help from a psychiatrist played with a bizarre Viennese accent by Peter Sellers. With an all-star cast it threatened to spin off the track completely and Woody Allen reportedly felt that his script had been massacred. But Donner just about kept it in control and it was a huge commercial success, buttressing The Caretaker's critical acclaim.

    Donner was now a hot property and in 1967 directed Luv, adapted from Murray Schisgal's play and starring Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk and Elaine May. But where with The Caretaker Donner had stuck to the original play, here he was encouraged to open the original out and the film bombed.

    Back home, he took on Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1968), for which Hunter Davies transferred the action of his novel from his native Carlisle to Stevenage. A sidelong glance at Sixties permissiveness, it follows a 17 year-old's desperate attempts to lose his virginity. Another small-scale success, it allowed Donner to make Alfred the Great (1969), in which David Hemmings plays the king as a neurotic. Its avowedly "anti-epic" viewpoint didn't chime with audiences and Donner, again finding it difficult to initiate projects, returned to advertising.

    In 1974 he directed on stage for the only time, with Robert Patrick's Kennedy's Children, a series of downbeat monologues. Starting at the King's Head in Islington, it then followed the trajectory of The Caretaker, from The Arts Theatre to Broadway.

    He now returned to film and television, hopping to and fro across the Atlantic, but without recapturing his earlier energy. 1974's Dracula spoof Vampira starred an anaemic David Niven, while The Nude Bomb (1980), a spin-off from the TV series Get Smart about a weapon that destroys clothing, is equally weak.

    Donner teamed up with George C Scott for two Dickens adaptations for television, Oliver Twist (1982) and A Christmas Carol (1984), neither of which stood comparison to the 1948 and 1951 versions that Donner had edited. Among his later work for television was an adaptation of Jeffrey Archer's Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (1990), another stab at Arthur the King (1985) and, finally, Charlemagne (1993).

    In the midst of this competent work he and O'Toole reunited for the BBC's outstanding Rogue Male (1976), adapted by Frederic Raphael from Geoffrey Household's novel. When an English aristocrat fails in his attempt to assassinate Hitler he fears he will find himself caught between the British and the Nazis. It was, deservedly, one of Donner's own favourites.

    John Riley

    Clive Stanley Donner, film, television and theatre director: born London 21 January 1926; married Jocelyn Rickards (died 2005); died London 6 September 2010.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    Clive Donner

    Clive Donner, who died on September 6 aged 84, directed two of the films that epitomised the freewheeling spirit of the Swinging Sixties – What's New, Pussycat? (1965) and Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1968).


    08 Sep 2010

    Clive Donner and Judy Geeson during filming of Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1968)

    Donner brought a flair for visual stylishness and sensitivity to his pictures, but although in the late 1960s The Sunday Telegraph critic Philip Oakes ranked him alongside Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz and John Schlesinger as among Britain's most talented directors, there was an unevenness in his output that reflected his tendency to accept assignments indiscriminately.

    He once declared his ambition to make successful films that were profound, but in the event his most successful work remained curiously stuck on the surface of a hedonistic decade, the images flamboyant and decorative but ultimately dated. Yet as a rising young star, by 1964 he was being hailed as Britain's leading New Wave director, with one newspaper noting: "Suddenly it's Donner this, Donner that, Donner everywhere."

    In the knockabout sex farce What's New, Pussycat? Donner abandoned several long-standing cinematic conventions, applying quick-fire cutting, exaggerated slapstick and hammed-up acting from stars who included Peter O'Toole, Woody Allen, Ursula Andress and Peter Sellers. To O'Toole's sex-mad fashion editor, Sellers (in a velvet suit and ridiculous wig) played a deranged Viennese psychiatrist, a part that might have been written for him.

    But Donner detected tensions during filming, and after a particularly lengthy delay shooting one scene, Sellers removed his wig, thrust it on Donner's head and marched out, saying: "When you're absolutely sure you're ready, I'll be at the hotel."

    Although it became one of the most successful films of the mid-1960s, Donner's first big commercial success was slated by the critics. Robert Robinson in The Sunday Telegraph found it had "all the pace, wit, thrills, inventiveness and sheer high-spirits of a Bank Holiday traffic jam".

    In New York, another newspaper decried the "shrieking, reeking conglomeration of dirty jokes [and] dreary camp". But the last laugh was had by Sellers: the film's producer, Charles Feldman, was so delighted with the comedian's spontaneous performance that he presented him with a Rolls-Royce.

    Donner's next film, Luv (1968), made in Hollywood, and starring Jack Lemmon, was a dud. On the other hand, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, based on the debut novel of the journalist Hunter Davies, then editing the Atticus column on The Sunday Times, struck the critics as the essence of permissiveness, and a triumphant return to form for Donner after the mauling of Pussycat.

    Davies, who had also written the screenplay, accompanied Donner to Paul McCartney's house to try to persuade him to write the film's theme tune; although McCartney declined (he was too busy), the encounter sowed the seed of Davies's acclaimed book about the Beatles.

    Between filming assignments, Donner was one of the most successful directors of television commercials, and often applied the effects he achieved on the small screen to the bigger one. He also made films and documentaries for television, as well as episodes of various television dramas including, in 1989, the BBC's adaptation of Jeffrey Archer's Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, shot in a deliberately dated manner.

    For commercial reasons, in the early 1960s the major cinema circuits were reluctant to book quality films like Donner's screen version of Harold Pinter's play The Caretaker (1963). Privately financed, it cost a mere £30,000 to make, and went ahead in the absence of any guarantee that it would be shown at all. It was initially screened in New York, and was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival before getting its first London showing in mid-1964.

    Donner screen-tested Julie Christie for the starring role opposite Alan Bates in Nothing But The Best (1964), but gave it instead to Millicent Martin, then hot television property as the chanteuse on television's That Was The Week That Was. A black comedy of manners, with a script by Frederic Raphael, the film dealt wittily with class.

    The critic Alexander Walker noted that Donner's direction "located the film in the perfect conceptual setting: the offices of a fashionable estate agent and auctioneering firm, a business that set the tone for everything bogus, fluctuating, pretentious and would-be respectable in society."

    The Daily Telegraph's Patrick Gibbs also enthused over the joie de vivre pervading many of the scenes. But although Donner's cinematographer was Nicolas Roeg, who achieved some notable visual effects including a memorable opening pull-back shot revealing that the stately home filling the screen is really a picture on a cheap biscuit tin, Nothing But The Best was a dismal commercial flop.

    Donner was one of a diminishing breed who belonged to the old school of film-making, learning his craft through the studio system. While many of his films are firmly products of their time, he was skilled at delivering on time and to budget.

    Clive Stanley Donner was born on January 21 1926 in West Hampstead into a family of Polish Jews. His father, Alex, was a violinist and his mother ran a dress shop. Clive grew up in Willesden and left Kilburn polytechnic school of commerce when he was 15.

    His father, who had done some work in film, arranged an introduction for his son at Denham film studios and then at Pinewood, where he was offered a job in the editing rooms. He worked initially with Michael Powell, and later with David Lean.

    In 1944, when he was 18, he joined the Army, and became a sergeant in the Education Corps before returning to Pinewood in 1947 to work as an editor on films such as Scrooge (1951), The Card (1952), Genevieve (1953) and on I Am A Camera (1955), the drama which earned the famous one-line dismissal from one critic: "Me no Leica."

    His first film as a director, The Secret Place (1957), a thriller about a diamond robbery, was followed by a clutch of other long-forgotten B-pictures; but in 1962 his next, Some People, starring Harry H Corbett and Ray Brooks, shifted the focus of the British New Wave from the north to the West Country. A thinly-disguised puff for the redemptive power of worthy causes, Donner's film depicted a group of tearaway bikers whose delinquent tendencies are tamed by a Bristol choirmaster (Kenneth More) who is also the local organiser of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

    After his heyday in the 1960s, Donner turned increasingly to directing and producing for the theatre, staging successful productions of Shakespeare as well as contemporary plays in London and the provinces.

    A late return to directing film, Vampira (1974), was critically panned, and coincided with an unhappy time for him personally: his wife, the costume designer Jocelyn Rickards, whom he had met during the filming of Alfred The Great in 1969, suffered a stroke.

    In 1976 his production for BBC Television of Geoffrey Household's classic thriller Rogue Male, again scripted by Frederic Raphael, was shot on film and tightly-paced.

    As a bachelor, Donner's proudest possession at his Mayfair flat was a Parisian bed built for three. For most of his married life he lived in a house in St John's Wood, London, with a beautiful walled garden which gave him much pleasure. Later, he and his wife moved to a flat in Hammersmith overlooking the Thames. There he found relaxation, enjoyed the varied bird life, and provided lunch and lively discourse for friends.

    An intelligent, cultured man, Donner was well-read and widely-travelled, retaining his youthful good looks and hair, tied in a trademark ponytail, well into later life.

    Clive Donner married Jocelyn Rickards in 1971. She died in 2005. They had no children.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: England Number Six's Avatar
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    name='smudge' timestamp='1283886941' post='472043']

    ....Donner cut his directorial teeth on the half-hour Danger Man series and made a very good job of his episodes I always thought...

    Definately agree with you there smudge. Very sad news indeed, RIP Clive.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: UK Juniper's Avatar
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    Director of two of my favoutite films Nothing But the Best and The Caretaker. Seems a shame that he wasn't given the chance to make films as good as those later in his career.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    name='will.15' timestamp='1283884674' post='472031']

    Otherwise, as the article points out, he seems to have been a director who started well, but quickly petered out. He actually may have been miscast as a comedy director. What's New Pussycat is often hilarious thanks to some good Woody Allen jokes and an outstanding Peter Sellers, but is otherwise messily made. His later comedies are limp, but he often showed more skill in drama

    So many directors and actors of the Swinging London period failed to adjust to 1970s; their films seemed dated almost overnight and they were out of vogue.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Country: England John Llewellyn Moxey's Avatar
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    R I P Mr Donner.

    John Llewellyn

  14. #14
    Senior Member Country: UK Moor Larkin's Avatar
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    name='smudge' timestamp='1283886941' post='472043']..... Donner cut his directorial teeth on the half-hour Danger Man series and made a very good job of his episodes I always thought......

    name='Number Six' timestamp='1284032699' post='472464']

    Definately agree with you there smudge. Very sad news indeed, RIP Clive.

    I notice that the press release for the 1960 Danger Man says,

    "From the cutting rooms, too, emerges Clive Donner, editor of such memorable productions as Genevieve, Million Pound Note and I Am A Camera. He became Director on The Secret Place, and has since been responsible for many TV productions."

    I wonder what they were.........

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: UK Merton Park's Avatar
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    He directed one of my favourites, Nothing But The Best, wonderful film. RIP

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