David Lean

David Lean ( 1908 – 1991) was brought up (allevato) in a strict (severa) Quaker family and as a child he wasn’t allowed (non gli fu permesso) to go to the movies. He found a job in a cinema studio in 1927 where he  worked as feature film editor. In 1942 Noel Coward, playwright, encouraged him and Lean launched (lanciò) a production company called Cineguild. He directed adaptations of three plays by Coward: the chronicle This Happy Breed (1944), the humorous ghost story Blithe Spirit(1945) and, most notably, the sentimental drama Brief Encounter (1945). Then he directed two adaptations of Charles Dicken’s works –  Great Expectations (1946) and The Adventures of Oliver Twist (1948), starring Alec Guinness as the Jew Fagin. Other great successes were sophisticated comedies based on theatrical plays like Hobson’s Choice (1954) and the Anglo-American co-production Summertime (1955). The year 1957 saw the apparition of the first of his masterpieces The Bridge on the River Kwai – produced by Sam Spiegel from a novel by ‘Pierre Boulle’, and shot in Ceylon under extremely difficult conditions. The film was an international success and won seven awards, included best film and director. The success was followed by an even more ambitious film, Lawrence d’Arabia(1962), based on “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, the autobiography of T.E. Lawrence, starring young Peter O’Toole. The film – shot in Spain, Morocco and Jordan over a period of 20 months –  was the first collaboration between Lean, writer Robert Bolt, cinematographer Freddie Young and composer Maurice Jarre. Like its predecessor, it won seven Oscars, including best film and director. The same team – Lean, Bolt, Young and Jarre – next worked on an adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s novel “Doctor Zhivago” for producer Carlo Ponti. Doctor Zivago (1965) was set (aveva luogo) in a revolutionary Russia and won five Oscars. Lean next movie was  Ryan’s Daughter, a sad romance set in Ireland (1970), which did not reach (raggiunse) the same heights (livelli alti) and both critics and public’s reaction was tepid. After a parenthesis, Lean started working again on an adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India, which he directed in 1984.  Lean’s last years were spent on an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo, but unfortunately he died  in 1991, just  before the shooting (la produzione) of “Nostromo” was about to begin (stava per iniziare). His influence can be still seen in  many modern productions like The English Patient(1996) by Anthony Minghella and Titanic  (1997)by James Cameron.