For better or for worse, Hollywood, for the last 80 years, has dominated how the whole world sees movies. In the same way, American actors and directors have reached world wide acclaim to a higher degree than those who claim other nationalities. That is not to say, however, that there has been a lack of film talent in other parts of the world. In fact, Britain has produced some of the best auteurs in film history. Here at BorrowFox, we consider it a key aspect of anyone’s film career to learn from the masters of the craft. That is why we have compiled five of the best British filmmakers to help you get inspired.
Great British Directors
Born in 1889, in Worcestershire, James Whale was one of the first British directors to make a huge impact on Hollywood. An auteur to the highest degree, Whale was one of the founding figures of the horror genre. His horror films are still widely emulated to this day. Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Old Dark House, and Bride of Frankenstein are early, but defining films in horror. Whale was worried about being pigeonholed as strictly a horror director, and he did indeed branch out into other genres. He dabbled in musicals and romantic comedies, directing the film version of Show Boat, and the romantic comedy Candlelight. Despite his reticence concerning his desire to be known for more than one genre, his lasting legacy are his masterful works of horror.
Producer Alexander Korda was one of the most prolific and well regarded filmmakers in British history. Korda escaped from his native Hungary in the 1930s and eventually became a fully naturalized British citizen in 1936. The producer, who often worked with his two brothers – director Zoltan and art director Vincent Korda – had 74 producer credits over his illustrious career. Korda was not only prolific, but also extremely talented. He was always daring and willing to experiment with different stories. He gave Laurence Olivier one of his first acting roles and was best known for classics like The Private Life of Don Juan, The Third Man, and the Oscar winning The Private Life of Henry VIII. Korda’s talent made him the first British filmmaker ever to be knighted, making him one of the most significant filmmakers in the history of the country.
Laurence Olivier remains as one of the most recognizable and beloved forces in the history of British cinema. A brilliant actor and director of the highest degree, Olivier is rightfully considered to be a national treasure. His work in Shakespeare’s oeuvre is the stuff of legend. It was once said that Olivier could speak Shakespeare’s lines as easily as thinking them. Olivier’s acting career spanned decades and earned him an Academy Award for best actor. Olivier was also an accomplished director. His adaptations of Henry V, Hamlet, and Richard III are considered to be directorial masterpieces and the quintessential adaptations of the plays.
Alfred Hitchcock, like Olivier, garnered immense critical favor and commercial success and is one of the most memorable directors in the history of cinema. Classics like Psycho, Vertigo, and The Birds have stood the test of time, and have become mainstays in the collective cultural consciousness. His work in the horror genre, like Whale’s, was formative and is still widely emulated to this day. Even more importantly, Hitchcock completely revolutionized cinematography and essentially created the script on how to perfectly build tension and anxiety in film.
Last but certainly not least, Sir David Lean, born in Crydon, had one of the most storied and impressive directorial careers in the history of cinema. From 1941 to 1984 Lean directed a total of 19 films, many of which were instant classics. In the 40s Lean adapted two Charles Dickens classics – Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. In the 1950s, already with impressive credits under his name and a Cannes Grand Prize award for Brief Encounter, Lean began to direct the high budget, immersive epics for which he would come to be remembered for. The brilliant The Bridge on the River Kwai won 7 Academy awards, including for best picture and best director. From there, Lean directed Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago two more movies that were recognized as immediate classics. Lean was knighted in 1984 and while his personal life made him a controversial figure, he is rightly remembered as one of, if not the best filmmaker to come from Britain.