April 17, 2014

Directors

Brian Desmond Hurst (1895-1986) b. East Belfast, Ireland.

Irish director who went to Hollywood to learn at the feet of John Ford, then came to Britain and directed steadily, but did not hit his peak until the post-war boom in British films. His Scrooge (1951) remains the definitive film version of the story. Born in East Belfast, Hurst was an art student in Paris before his trip to America where he worked for several years as one of Ford’s assistants. Directing in Britain from the early 1930s, Hurst made an impression with a version of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart (1934), later entering into an association with Alexander Korda‘s London Films. His late 1930s chores included some abortive pre-production work on a version of Lawrence of Arabia and a salvage job on a film called Prison without Bars (1938).

Hurst’s career got a boost in the early 1940s, though, when he made Dangerous Moonlight (1940), a flying drama about a Polish pianist who loses his memory during the Battle of Britain. Its popularity was increased by the success of its theme music, Richard Addinsell’s ‘Warsaw Concerto’. Hurst’s next film, Alibi (1942), a thriller with Margaret Lockwood and James Mason, was also a popular hit, and its direction was praised by critics; but Hurst spent the rest of the war years working on shorts and documentaries to boost the war effort, although, towards the end of the fighting, he became involved in directing some scenes for Gabriel Pascal’s ponderous Caesar and Cleopatra. Hurst took some time to adjust to post-war tastes and both Hungry Hill (1947) and The Mark of Cain (1947) were too gloomy for their time. Trottie True (1949), bedecked in early TechniColour, brought his work back to popularity and, after producing a successful version of Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1951), he made Scrooge (1951), The Malta Story (1953) and Simba (1955), three contrasting films which all made big money at the box-office, especially Simba, with its strong star cast and topical subject – Mau-Mau atrocities in Africa even if its atmosphere seemed faintly artificial. Strangely, it proved to be Hurst’s last film of any weight and his career petered out disappointingly in the early 1960s.



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