Ronald Neame (1911-2010)

Posted by · 3:23 pm · June 18th, 2010

It’s inevitable, but somewhat depressing, that most of the obituaries cropping up for British filmmaker Ronald Neame, who passed away yesterday in Los Angeles aged 99, mention “The Poseidon Adventure” at the top. (And look, I’ve only gone and done it myself.)

As a director, writer, producer and cinematographer, Neame’s résumé is considerably more scattered and interesting than that hoary slab of big-studio Velveeta — including trick-laden DP duty on “Blithe Spirit,” Oscar-nominated script work on David Lean’s “Brief Encounter” and “Great Expectations” and a good run of unflashy but considered directorial efforts.

Second to “The Poseidon Adventure,” Neame might remain best-known for directing Maggie Smith to her Oscar-winning (and career-best) performance in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” but on the less tony end of the scale, he had a knack for peppy comedy, including two delightful capers with happily mismatched star duos, “Gambit” (Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine) and the particularly underrated “Hopscotch” (Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson).

But his crowning achievement, and his own favorite among his films, remains the military character study “Tunes of Glory,” showcasing brilliant against-type work by both Alec Guinness and John Mills. (Coincidentally, I picked up a DVD copy off the bargain rail only a fortnight ago — UK readers, Fopp will sort you out.) If you feel like paying your respects, do him (and me) a favor and seek this over the sinking-ship soap.

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3 responses so far

  • 1 6-18-2010 at 5:46 pm

    hopeless pedant said...

    You are right to point out the full range of Neame’s credits (and that he got Oscar nominations for writing and for cinematographic work is pretty amazing), but a word of defense for The Poseidon Adventure, perhaps the best of the disaster films, and in its way clearly benefitting from his direction. I like other of his films, but it is actually my favorite of his.

  • 2 6-18-2010 at 8:11 pm

    Patryk said...

    Neame may be most often cited for his direction of “The Poseidon Adventure.” His obituary stated that he received 5% of the gross for that guilty pleasure…I don’t think he would have had any regrets there.

    But as Guy points out, there are some fine lesser known films that are worth seeking out. In addition to those mentioned, a pair of films with both Deborah Kerr and Dame Edith Evans, “The Chalk Garden,” and “Prudence and the Pill,” are dated but certainly worth a look. You can tell Neame was having fun with the ladies there. Harmless fun.

  • 3 6-19-2010 at 12:35 am

    Dean Treadway said...

    THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE will always be my favorite of his directorial efforts, but of course his work with David Lean, among others, trumps it in every way. His commentary for TPA still stands as one of the best ever done because he’s so honest about where his film fails and succeeds. RIP.