Childhood & Early Years
Guy Hamilton was born on 16 September 1922, in Paris. His father was a diplomat and at the time of Guy’s birth he was working as the press attaché to the British Embassy at Paris. Although his parents lived mostly in France, Guy was sent to England for his schooling.
Guy Hamilton came in contact with the film world early in his life. He especially enjoyed French movies. and was very fond of Jean Renoir. Although he was being trained to become a diplomat his secret wish was to become a film director.
He had his first brush with film industry in 1938. In that year, he was employed as a clapperboard boy at the Victorine Studios (now known as Studio Riviera) in Nice. Later he worked in the company’s accounts department and then as an assistant producer.
However, as the World War II broke out, Hamilton, along with other British citizens, was evacuated from France to England. On returning to London, he found a job in the cutting room of the British Paramount News. What he learnt there helped him in editing his works later in life.
Very soon, he was inducted in the British Navy and was posted in 15th Motor Gunboat Flotilla, a covert unit engaged in rescuing British servicemen held up in France and ferrying agents into the German occupied territories. His experiences during the war greatly influenced his film making.
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As the war ended, Hamilton returned to film industry. His big break came in September 1947, when director Carol Reed took him under his wing and appointed him as the assistant director for his 1948 film ‘Fallen Idol’. Subsequently, Reed became a sort of father-figure for Hamilton and guided him in the art of film directing.
Hamilton worked as the assistant director under Reeds for two more films; ‘The Third Man’ (1949) and ‘Outcast of the Island’ (1951). Subsequently, he also served in the same capacity for John Huston on ‘The African Queen’ (1951)
Impressed by his talent, Reed next helped Hamilton to direct his first movie; ‘The Ringer’. This low budget film, released in 1952, was dubbed as “old-fashioned melodrama with an excellent cast."
‘Intruder’, his second film, was released in 1953. Set up against the backdrop of postwar London, the film received moderate review. This was followed by ‘The Inspector Calls’ (1954), which was based on an eponymous play.
It was his fourth movie ‘The Colditz Story’, released in 1955, which actually established him as a director. The film, based on Patrick Robert’s memoir, depicts the escape of prisoners of war during World War II from the high security German castle at Colditz. Hamilton was not only the director of the movie, but had also co-authored script. It turned out to be the fourth most popular movie at the British box office in 1955 and made a profit of £100,000.
The film was followed by a string of successful, but low budget films like ‘Charley Moon’ (1956), ‘Manuela’ (1957), ‘A Touch of Larceny’ (1959). Among them, ‘Manuela’ was entered into the 7th Berlin International Film Festival and ‘A Touch of Larceny’ was nominated for the BAFTA award for Best British Screenplay.
His first big budget film was ‘The Devil’s Discipline’, which was released in 1959. Alexander Mackendrick was first chosen to direct this film; but later it went to Hamilton. The film, made on a budget of $1.5 million, earned $1.8 million in the box office,
His next film, released in 1961, was an Italian and British co-production set up against the backdrop of the World War II East African Campaign. Titled ‘The Best of Enemies’, it was filmed in Israel and Starred David Niven, Alberto Sordi and Michael Wilding. The film was nominated for three Golden Globe awards.
His next film was ‘The Party’s Over’. In March 1963, he submitted the film to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). It advised three cuts for implied necrophilia. The film was ultimately released in 1965, but Hamilton along with producer Anthony Perry, removed his name from the credit list as a mark of protest.
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Meanwhile in 1964, he released another war film, titled ‘Man in the Middle’. It was also set against the backdrop of World War II, but this time the locale was India.
In 1964, he also released his first James Bond film, ‘Goldfinger’. Made on a budget of $3 million, it recouped its expenditure within two weeks and earned $124.9 million at the box office. It was also the first Bond film to use technology and gadgets extensively. .
It was followed by ‘Funeral in Berlin’ (1966) and then in 1969, he released another of his big budget films, ‘The Battle of Britain’. Budgeted at 14 million the film offered spectacular flying sequences, but failed to make any profit.
Afterwards, Hamilton made three James Bond film in a row. They were ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971), ‘Live and Let Die’ (1973) and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (1974). All of them were box office hits and earned huge profit for their producers.
His next film, ‘Force Ten from Navarone’ (1978), a sequel to the 1961 film ‘The Guns of Navarone’, was commercially unsuccessful.
In 1980, he made ‘The Mirror Crack’d’, a film based on Agatha Christie's novel The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side. However, it was also poorly received.
In the 1980s, he made three films; ‘Evil Under the Sun’ (1982), ‘Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins’ (1985) and ‘Try This One for Size’ (1989). All these films did moderately at the box office.
In late 1980s, Hamilton was also approached to direct ‘Batman’ by producer John Peters; but he turned it down. Instead, in the middle of the decade he shifted to the Spanish island of Majorca and led a retired life.