Launder, Frank, and Sidney Gilliat

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LAUNDER, Frank, and Sidney GILLIAT

LAUNDER. Nationality: British. Born: Hitchin, Hertfordshire, 1906. Education: Brighton. Family: Married actress Bernadette O'Farrell, 1950. Career: Civil servant, then actor, in Brighton; studio assistant, 1928; first collaboration with fellow writer Sidney Gilliat, 1935; with Gilliat, wrote radio serials Crooks Tour and Secret Mission 609, 1939; co-directed first film, Millions like Us, 1943; formed Individual Pictures production company with Gilliat, 1944 (dissolved 1950). Died: 23 February 1997.

GILLIAT. Nationality: British. Born: Edgeley, Cheshire, 1908. Education: London University. Career: Hired by Walter Mycroft, film critic of London Evening Standard (edited by Gilliat's father) and scenario chief at British International Pictures, Elstree, as studio assistant, 1928; gagman and dogsbody for director Walter Forde, 1929–30; collaborator with Frank Launder (see above), from 1935; president, Screen Writers Association, 1936; director, British Lion, 1958–72; chairman of Shepperton Studios, from 1961; also co-founder of TV commercial company, Littleton Park Film Productions; wrote opera libretto for Our Man in Havana, 1963. Died: 31 May 1994, in Wiltshire, England, UK.

Films Directed, Produced, and Written by Launder and Gilliat:


Millions like Us (Launder and Gilliat)


Two Thousand Women (Launder)


The Rake's Progress (The Notorious Gentleman) (Gilliat)


Green for Danger (Gilliat); I See a Dark Stranger (Launder)


Captain Boycott (Launder)


The Blue Lagoon (Launder); London Belongs to Me (Dulcimer Street) (Gilliat)


State Secret (The Great Manhunt) (Gilliat); The HappiestDays of Your Life (Launder)


Lady Godiva Rides Again (Launder)


Folly to Be Wise (Launder)


The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (The Great Gilbert andSullivan) (Gilliat)


The Constant Husband (Gilliat); The Belles of St. Trinian's (Launder)


Geordie (Wee Geordie) (Launder)


Fortune Is a Woman (She Played with Fire) (Gilliat)


Blue Murder at St. Trinian's (Launder)


The Bridal Path (Launder); Left, Right, and Centre (Gilliat)


The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's (Launder)


Only Two Can Play (Gilliat)


Joey Boy (Launder)


The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery (Launder and Gilliat)

Films Written by Launder and Gilliat:


Seven Sinners (de Courville); Twelve Good Men (Ince)


The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock)


Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday (Forde)


They Came by Night (Lachman); Night Train to Munich (Reed)


The Young Mr. Pitt (Reed)


The Green Man (Day) (+ pr)

Other Films—Launder:


Cocktails (Banks) (titles)


Under the Greenwood Tree (Lachman) (co-sc)


The Compulsory Husband (Banks) (dialogue/dubbing); Songof Soho (Lachman) (co-sc); Harmony Heaven (Bentley) (additional dialogue); The W Plan (Saville) (additional dialogue); The Middle Watch (Walker) (co-sc); Children ofChange (Esway) (co-sc); How He Lied to Her Husband (Lewis) (sc)


Keepers of Youth (Bentley) (sc); Hobson's Choice (Bentley) (co-sc); A Gentleman of Paris (Hill) (co-sc); The WomanBetween (Mander) (co-sc)


After Office Hours (Bentley) (co-sc); The Last Coupon (Bentley) (co-sc); Arms and the Man (Lewis) (co-sc, uncredited); Josser in the Army (Lee) (sc)


Emil and the Detectives (Rosmer) (co-sc); Rolling Home (R. Ince) (sc); So You Won't Talk (Beaudine) (co-sc); Mr.What's His Name (Ince) (co-sc); Educated Evans (Beaudine) (co-sc); Windbag the Sailor (Beaudine) (sc editor)


Good Morning Boys (Varnel) (sc editor); Bank Holiday (Reed) (sc editor); OKay for Sound (Varnel) (sc editor); Doctor Syn (Neill) (sc editor); Oh, Mr. Porter! (Varnel) (story)


Owd Bob (Stevenson) (sc editor); Strange Boarders (Mason) (sc editor); Convict 99 (Varnel) (sc editor); Alf's ButtonAfloat (Varnel) (sc editor); Hey! Hey! U.S.A.! (Varnel) (sc editor); Old Bones of the River (Varnel) (sc editor)


Ask a Policeman (Varnel) (sc editor); A Girl Must Live (Reed) (sc); The Frozen Limits (Varnel) (sc editor)


Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It (Forde) (story)


An Elephant Called Slowly (Hill) (sc uncredited)


Wildcats of St. Trinian's (d, sc)

Other Films—Gilliat:


Toni (Maude) (titles); Champagne (Hitchcock) (titles); Adams's Apple (Whelan) (titles); Weekend Wives (Lachman) (titles); The Manxman (Hitchcock) (research)


The Tryst (short) (co-d); Would You Believe It? (Forde) (asst d, + role)


Red Pearls (Forde) (asst d); You'd Be Surprised (Forde) (asst d, + role); The Last Hour (Forde) (asst d); Lord Richard inthe Pantry (Forde) (sc); Bed's Breakfast (Forde) (sc)


3rd Time Lucky (Ford) (additional dialogue); The Ghost Train (Forde) (additional dialogue); A Gentleman of Paris (Hill) (sc); The Happy Ending (Webb) (co-sc, uncredited); ANight in Marseilles (Night Shadows) (de Courville) (sc); Two Way Street (King) (sc)


Lord Babs (Forde) (additional dialogue); Jack's the Boy (Forde) (sc continuity); Rome Express (Forde) (sc); For theLove of Mike (Banks) (co-sc)


Sign Please (Rawlins—short) (sc); Post Haste (Cadman—short) (sc); Facing the Music (Hughes) (co-story); Fallingfor You (Hulbert and Stevenson) (story); Orders Is Orders (Forde) (co-sc); Friday the Thirteenth (Saville) (co-story)


Jack Ahoy! (Forde) (co-sc) Chu-Chin-Chow (Forde) (co-sc); My Heart Is Calling (Gallone) (adapt/dialogue)


Bulldog Jack (Alias Bulldog Drummond) (Forde) (co-sc); King of the Damned (Forde) (co-sc)


Tudor Rose (Stevenson) (assoc pr); Where There's a Will (Beaudine) (sc); The Man Who Changed His Mind (TheMan Who Lived Again) (Stevenson) (co-sc, assoc pr); Strangers on a Honeymoon (de Courville) (co-sc)


Take My Tip (Mason) (co-sc); A Yank at Oxford (Conway) (story)


Strange Boarders (Mason) (co-sc); The Gaunt Stranger (ThePhantom Strikes) (Forde) (sc)


Ask a Policeman (Varnel) (story); Jamaica Inn (Hitchcock) (sc)


The Girl in the News (Reed) (sc)


The Ghost Train (Forde) (additional dialogue); Kipps (TheRemarkable Mr. Kipps) (Reed) (sc); Mr. Proudfoot Showsa Light (Mason—short) (story); You're Telling Me! (Peak—short) (sc); From the Four Corners (Havelock-Allan—short) (sc, uncredited)


Unpublished Story (French) (co-sc); Partners in Crime (short) (co-d, sc)


Waterloo Road (d, sc)


The Smallest Show on Earth (Dearden) (pr)


Ooh . . . You Are Awful (Get Charlie Tully) (Owen) (co-exec pr); Endless Night (d, sc)



Durgnat, Raymond, A Mirror for England, 1971.

Brown, Geoff, Launder and Gilliat, London, 1977.


Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1946, December 1949, and Autumn 1958.

Films and Filming (London), July 1963.

Brown, Geoff, in National Film Theatre Booklet (London), November/December 1977.

Films Illustrated (London), November 1979.

"Frank Launder," in Film Dope (London), November 1985.

Tobin, Y., "Launder et Gilliat: retrospective," in Positif, July-August 1990.

Vergerio, Flavio, "Launder e Gilliat: nel segno della 'britannicità'," in Cineforum (Bergamo), July-August 1993.

Obituary for Sidney Gilliat, in Variety (New York), 6 June 1994.

Gilliat, Sidney, "Le declin de l'empire, et comment nous y fûmes mêlés," in Positif (Paris), December 1994.

"Never to Be Forgotten," an obituary for Frank Launder, in Psychotronic Video (Narrowsburg), no. 25, 1997.

Obituary for Frank Launder, in Variety (New York), 3 March 1997.

Arnold, Frank, "Frank Launder 1906–27.2.1997," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), May 1997.

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Frank Launder and Gilliat's chosen specialty was intelligent entertainment with a distinctive British flavor. Each had their individual style and preferences. Launder favored the breezy implausibilities of farce (The Happiest Days of Your Life, the St. Trinian's films), tempered with a dose of Celtic whimsy (Geordie, The Bridal Path, parts of I See a Dark Stranger). Gilliat leaned more towards caustic social comedy (The Rake's Progress, Only Two Can Play) and rigorously detailed thrillers (State Secret). But they functioned admirably as a team: first as screenwriters (working in tandem from 1935), then, from 1943, as writer-producer-directors—though only on their first feature, Millions like Us, did they attempt joint direction, side by side.

Both separately entered the industry in lowly capacities in 1928, and gradually worked up the ladder during the 1930s, serving in various studio script departments. As a team they earned their reputation with thrillers. Seven Sinners, their first collaboration, established their talent for concocting ingenious plot twists, expertly balancing comedy with suspense, and stamping even the most minor character with individuality. Subsequent films refined the formula: The Lady Vanishes, for instance (their script was substantially written before Hitchcock came on board as director), and Night Train to Munich, one of several scripts directed by Carol Reed. Both these films featured Charters and Caldicott—comic, imperturbable Englishmen, played by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, who bumbled obliviously round a jittery Europe, babbling about cricket scores and picking up Mein Kampf at a German station bookstall only after a fruitless request for Punch. Charters and Caldicott make an appearance in Millions like Us, laying beach mines. But this was only for old times' sake: the film belonged firmly to the women factory workers, whose hopes and problems were explored in a rich tapestry of individual plot-lines. Few other British feature films of World War II evoke the Home Front's daily round with quite the same nose for detail or emotional pull. Gilliat's next production, Waterloo Road, slipped into melodrama at times, but still maintained a strong realistic atmosphere in its triangular drama of an AWOL soldier, the soldier's roving wife, and a muscle-flexing local spiv.

In 1944 Launder and Gilliat launched their own company, Individual Pictures. They began on a high level, working from their own original scripts. Gilliat's The Rake's Progress offered a biting satirical treatment of a profligate charmer (Rex Harrison, ideally cast) washed up on the rocks of the 1930s. Launder's marvelous I See a Dark Stranger wrapped up its far-fetched story about a naive Irish girl persuaded to spy for Germany with Hitchcockian panache. Subsequent films followed a more obviously commercial path, though Gilliat's Green for Danger and State Secret demonstrated his witty way with thriller conventions, while The Happiest Days of Your Life, adapted from John Dighton's popular play, displayed Launder's happy ability to keep the wildest farce on an even keel.

Artistically, the 1950s and 1960s proved less rewarding. The St. Trinian's series, inspired by the hideous schoolgirls featured in Ronald Searle's cartoons, began briskly enough within The Belles of St. Trinian's, but the formula and humor coarsened drastically as the sequels followed. The pleasant whimsy of Geordie—Launder's tale of the amazing growth of an undersized Scot and his exploitation by others—was no match for the barbed blarney that lit up I See a Dark Stranger, while Gilliat's gift for social comedy appeared stunted in The Constant Husband and Left, Right, and Centre. Much of their energies were by this time being spent in boardroom activities: as directors of British Lion, they nursed several films by other filmmakers through the production process, including the lively prison comedy Two-Way Stretch. But Gilliat managed a confident return to form in Only Two Can Play, a lively version of Kingsley Amis's novel about a philandering Welsh librarian, fully alert to the comic drabness of provincial life.

After Endless Night, an elegant diversion adapted from Agatha Christie, was unfairly mauled by the critics, Gilliat retired from filmmaking in the early 1970s. Launder, however, unwisely returned in 1980 with The Wildcats of St. Trinian's—one of the few films in the team's long career which seemed out of step with audience's tastes.

—Geoff Brown