Childhood & Early Life
Carol Reed was born in Putney, London, England, on December 30, 1906.
His father, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree was a hugely successful British stage actor and the founder of the ‘Royal School of Dramatic Arts’.
Carol Reed was one of the six children born out of wedlock of Beerhohm Tree and his mistress Beatrice Mae Pinney.
He grew up in a well mannered, middle-class atmosphere in a second household maintained separately by his father.
He did his schooling at the ‘King’s School’ in Canterbury but was an average student.
Reed wanted to be actor like his father but his mother disapproved of the idea and sent him away to Massachusetts, USA, in 1922 to live with his elder brother in a chicken ranch.
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Carol Reed came back to England six months later and in 1924, at the age of 18, took up acting and started playing bit parts on the stage with a company run by Dame Sybil Thorndike.
He met writer Edgar Wallace time who made him a stage manager for his plays which were adaptations of his thrillers.
In 1927 Edgar Wallace became the chairman of new ‘British Lion Film Corporation’ and he made Reed his personal assistant. Reed supervised Wallace’s plays during the day and acted in plays during the night.
When Wallace passed away in 1932, Reed moved to films from the stage and joined the ‘Ealing Studios’. He was appointed to act as a dialogue coach for ‘Associated Talking Pictures’ under Basil Dean.
From a dialogue coach he became an associate director and then a director and co-directed many films.
In 1934 Reed made his first attempt at film direction with the movie ‘Midshipman Easy’ which was a very inexpensive film like others being produced at that time.
His film ‘Laburnum Grove’ in 1936 was highly praised by writer Graham Greene who later on collaborated with him in making a number of films.
As per the 1938 stipulation laid down by the British government on British film companies to produce more British films rather than being involved in distributing foreign films, Reed made some remarkable British films such as ‘The Stars Look Down’ in 1939 starring Michael Redgrave. It was based on the life in an English mining town, which received international acclaim.
His next film ‘Night Train to Munich’ in 1940 was a thriller starring Rex Harrison who played the part of a double agent which reminded of the suspense created by Alfred Hitchcock movies.
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In 9141 he made ‘The Remarkable Mr. Kipps’ and in 1942 he directed ‘The Young Mr. Pitt’ which were thrillers based on historical events.
He directed some war documentaries during the Second World War for the British army’s film unit which included ‘The True Glory’ in 1945. He co-directed this film with Garson Kanin under the supervision of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and won his first Oscar.
He was influenced by his experience in making documentaries which gave him an eye for detail and made the film ‘Odd Man Out’ in 1947 which was the story of a IRA agent on the run starring James Mason.
He joined up with writer Grahame Greene and producer Alexander Korda to make ‘The Fallen Idol’ in 1948.
In 1949 he made his best feature film ‘The Third Man’ in association with Greene and Korda which was a thriller about the Cold War with the lead roles played by Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles.
His films ‘The Man Between’ (1953) and ‘A Kid for Two Farthings’ (1955) were nondescript and below average.
He made a circus drama ‘Trapeze’ in 1956 starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis which was well received by the audience though it was not as good as his post-war efforts.
He made ‘The Key’ in 1958 with an international cast but despite having famous stars in the main roles the film suffered from a slow script.
His films ‘Our Man in Havana’ in 1959 based on a Graham Greene thriller, with Alec Guinness in the lead role, brought back some of the fading glory in his directional efforts.
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The epic based on the life of Michael Angelo ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ in 1965 was also a good film but was considered by the critics to be less noteworthy than the films he had made earlier.
In 1968 he made his only musical venture ‘Oliver!’ It was based on Lionel Bart’s stage musical with the same name and proved all his critics and detractors wrong again about his capabilities as a film director. The film won five Oscars including the award for the best director.
Awards & Achievements
In 1945 Carol Reed won his first Oscar for the war documentary ‘The True Glory’ for ‘Distinctive Achievement in Documentary Production’.
In 1949 he was nominated for an ‘Academy Award’ for Best Director for the film ‘The Third Man’ which also won the first prize at the ‘Cannes Film Festival’.
He received his knighthood in 1952 for the highly successful films that he made during the 1940s.
In 1960 he received an ‘Academy Award’ for Best Director for the film ‘Oliver!’
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Diana Wynward on February 3, 1943 and divorced her in 1947 without having any children.
On January 24, 1948 he married Penelope Dudley-Ward who remained with him till his death. They had a son named Max from the marriage. He was the step-father of Ward’s daughter named Tracy.
He suffered from increasing deafness in his later years which prevented him from directing films.
Carol Reed died of a heart attack on April 25, 1976 in Chelsea, London, UK at the age of 69.