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Lewis Gilbert CBE (6 March 1920 – 23 February 2018)) was a British film director, producer, and screenwriter, who has directed more than 40 films during six decades including three James Bond films: You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker.


Lewis Gilbert was born in Hackney, London on 6 March 1920 where he raised in a second-generation family of music hall performers.[1] His first role was as a child actor in the 1933 film, Dick Turpin. He had by this stage met Alexander Korda who had suggested to him to pursue an acting career, and attend Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Instead, Gilbert had a interest in directing, and served as an assistant on the Hitchcock film Jamaica Inn.[1]

When World War II brought, Gilbert joined the Royal Air Force, and directed several documentaries on attachment to the United States.[2] He was eventually resigned to the U.S. Air Corp film unit, where his commanding officer, William Keighley, an American film director, who allowed Gilbert to take on much of his film-making work. At the end of the war, he continued to write and direct documentary shorts for Gaumont-British Picture Corporation before working with low budget feature film productioncompanies such as Group 3 and Butcher-Nettefold Studios.[1]

In 1952, his most major film, Emergency Call, which was not well-received. Despite this, this began his longtime collabration with screenwriter Vernon Harris for the next forty years.[2] [1] Subsequently, Gilbert was offered more expensive productions, most of them produced by Daniel Angel. The following year, Gilbert directed Cosh Boy, was one of the earliest films to receive an 'X' certificate, but more typical of their partnership were war films such as Albert RN (1953), Reach for the Sky (1956), and Carve Her Name With Pride (1958). [1]

In the 1960s, after directing several adaptations of war novels (most notably 1960's Sink the Bismarck!), Gilbert directed the highly successful film, Alfie, starring Michael Caine, which won a Best Director nomination from the Golden Globes, and was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture.[3] Gilbert credited the making of Alfie to the film being produced on a low budget because it was "the sort of money Paramount executives normally spend on cigar bills".[4]

That same year, Lewis Gilbert declined the offer to direct You Only Live Twice, but accepted after producer Albert R. Broccoli called him saying: "You can't give up this job. It's the largest audience in the world." Peter R. Hunt, who edited the first five Bond films, believed that Gilbert had been contracted by the producers for other work, but they found they had to use him.[5] After the success of You Only Live Twice, Gilbert returned to Paramount Pictures, where Gilbert directed the poorly received American production of Harold Robbins' The Adventurers.

During the mid-1970s, The Spy Who Loved Me fell into production hell, struggling to obtain a director. After Guy Hamilton left production to direct Superman before being passed up to Richard Donner, EON Productions would later turn to Lewis Gilbert, who accepted the offer. During production, Gilbert decided to bring in screenwriter, Christopher Wood, whom he knew was a fan of the Bond novels. Gilbert also decided to fix what he felt the previous Roger Moore films were doing wrong, which was writing the Bond character too much like how Sean Connery played him, and instead do Bond closer to the books – "very English, very smooth, good sense of humour".[6] After the success of The Spy Who Loved Me, Gilbert returned to direct Moonraker, which although highly successfull, was criticized for its heavy campiness.

In the 1980s, Gilbert returned to more small-scale dramas with film versions of Willy Russell's plays Educating Rita (1983) and Shirley Valentine (1989). Gilbert also directed the film Stepping Out (1991). In 2001, Lewis Gilbert was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute, the highest accolade given in the British film industry. In 2010, Gilbert released his autobiography, All My Flashbacks: The Autobiography of Lewis Gilbert Sixty Years a Film Director, which was published by Reynolds & Hearn.[7]

On February 23, 2018, Gilbert died at his home in Monaco.[8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 BFI Screenonline, Gilbert, Lewis (1920-) Biography. BFI Screenonline. Retrieved on 2013-01-07.
  2. 2.0 2.1 British Cinema Greats - Lewis Gilbert. British Cinema Greats.com. Retrieved on 2013-01-07.
  3. 39th Academy Awards (1967) Nominees and Winners. Oscars.org. Retrieved on 2013-01-07.
  4. Halliwell's Film & Video Guide 2000, 1999, London: HarperCollins, p15
  5. Peter Hunt Interview – CBn Forums. Debrief.commanderbond.net.. Retrieved on 2013-01-07.
  6. Inside the Spy Who Loved Me. The Spy Who Loved Me Ultimate Edition DVD, Disc 2.
  7. "The Film Programme", BBC Radio 4, 26 March 2010
  8. Lewis Gilbert, Director of 3 James Bond Films, Dies at 97. The New York Times (February 27, 2018). Retrieved on February 27, 2018.

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