Film Day In Memorium for John Guillermin, Director
On Saturday, November 11, Guillermin’s birthday, his widow, Mary Guillermin, is hosting a Film Day In Memorium. The free showings will be held in his living room at the SunMoon Retreat Center, the home of the last eight years of his life, at 20845 Cheney Dr, Topanga. Mrs Guillermin is showing four of Guillermin’s best British B & W films from 1950 to 1965, starting at 10am and culminating in a repeat Topanga showing of his masterpiece, Rapture (1965) at 4 pm. The other films shown will be The Crowded Day (1950), Never Let Go (1960) and Guns at Batasi (1964).
Guillermin’s style of direction from his very first film (shot in 1949 at the age of 24) had a passion and innovation that matched his French heritage, and his work shows many lighting effects and camera moves that became familiar later but that were fresh and novel in the rather staid British film industry of the fifties to early sixties. Guillermin made forty films, half of them in Britain before chasing the money, and work, across the Atlantic around 1968.
The first film to be shown, at 10am, The Crowded Day, was made at the small, independent Adelphi Studios in London run by Arthur Dent. Dent’s granddaughter, Kate Lees, is one of the contributors to a book reassessing Guillermin’s impressive film career. Mrs Guillermin is collaborating with a number of international film writers who believe that Guillermin’s work deserves greater recognition.
The Crowded Day follows the interrelated lives of five shopgirls in a large department store. The social history, running alongside the girls’ story lines, is a true window on another world. In the early fifties, such working women lived in hostels owned by the store and, in the film at least, the matron was also the supervisor at work. The film starring John Gregson, is fairly light-hearted, and very charming, with a whole host of British comedy character actors of the time making an appearance – Richard Wattis, Dora Bryan and Sid James, for example. Guillermin’s edginess and ability to create high tension is demonstrated in one story line where a young woman who falls pregnant out of wedlock fears abandonment by her lover, and is treated with disdainful class prejudice by his upperclass mother. These were risqué issues in 1950s Britain.
At noon, in Never Let Go (1960), Peter Sellers plays a gangster in his only straight role. Neither the conventional film critics nor the viewing public adapted to Sellers in a straight role. The reviews were mixed, which disappointed him, and he never played a straight role again. It is a shame. He is a convincing and scary tough guy who unravels slowly in a marvelously realistic way as the tense storyline, written by Guillermin himself, unfolds. Richard Todd, a big star of the time, plays the lead role in his best ever performance opposite the excellent Elizabeth Sellars.
At 2pm, the film is Guns at Batasi (1964), a tense exploration of the political and social issues revealed as the British Empire begins to collapse during the fight for African Independence. Richard Attenborough won a BAFTA Film Award for his role as a sargeant major who resists the change with all his heart and loud voice.
Lastly, at 4 pm is a showing of Rapture (1965), a film that was not widely distributed at the time being shot, at Guillermin’s insistence for artistic reasons, in black and white. Colour was becoming fashionable in the mid-sixties and Daryl Zanuck didn’t push the distribution of this B&W production. Guillermin would repeatedly comment, “I have only made one film I really like, Rapture, and only half a dozen people have seen it”. He was delighted when it was among the first rereleases in 2011 by the then-new company, Twilight Times. In 2012, Guillermin uncharacteristically agreed to be interviewed by Nick Redman, founder of Twilight Times, for a BFTA video series on Living British Directors. He was grateful for the excellent reviews Rapture received that generally agreed the film was the masterpiece of his body of work. As he and his second wife, Mary Guillermin, watched his body of films as they became increasingly available on DVD he would always say, “Don’t remember a single shot!” and “Not bad”. He died content about his body of work and his contribution to cinema history.
Please contact Mary Guillermin for further details or to RSVP. The viewing room holds approximately 12 people. It is important to RSVP to guarantee a seat. Text or call 310 422 7915 or email [email protected]. Further information about the films can be found on IMDb.com or Wikipedia.
Mary Guillermin, LMFT 52868
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Psychotherapist, Pellin Practitioner & Proprietor of the SunMoon Retreat Center
Advocate for Recovery in Mental Health & Co-President of LAGPA (Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association).
Phone: 310 422 7915