THE key figure of British cinema ?? Surely not.I think he was truly the key figure of British cinema around that time.
He only made 2 films of note in the 1960s that any sort of lasting resonance- Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Tom Jones. And he made so much money from Tom Jones (as he took a percentage of the gross) that he didn't have to make another film for years and spent his time in the theatre. I guess the money from Tom Jones must have run out in the late 1970s since he started appearing in just about anything from then onwards.