Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine Director Lewis Gilbert Dies

He was one of the greatest British film directors, who made three James Bond movies, during the course of a career spanning six decades.

The renowned British film director Lewis Gilbert has died. He was 97.

Gilbert made some of the most commercially successful British films of the modern era, in a career that spanned well over 50 years. In all, he directed three James Bond movies, beginning with the definitive You Only Live Twice (1967). A decade later, he made his second Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, followed by Moonraker in 1979.

However, it was with a number of quintessentially British films that he made his most long-lasting impression. In 1966, Alfie was released, starring Michael Caine in the title role. It won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign English Language Film, as well as picking up a plethora of Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. The title song, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was sung by Millicent Martin in the UK version of the movie. and Cher in the US – but it became a huge hit for Cilla Black, adding hugely to her status and reputation.

That filmic success was perhaps surpassed in 1983 by his acclaimed adaptation of Willy Russell's Educating Rita, which again starred Michael Caine, with Julie Walters delivering a career-defining role as the Rita of the title.

His third uniquely UK meisterwerk came with 1989’s Shirley Valentine, a warm and funny film, which saw Shirley Collins (who played opposite Tom Conti) scooping a nomination as Best Actress, in the Academy Awards. Indeed, she was widely nominated for awards, and lifted a BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Gilbert made 40 films across six decades, with the war films Sink The Bismarck! and Reach For The Sky among his other notable successes..

Heather Stewart, Creative Director British Film Institute, paid tribute to the great director.

"The BFI salutes the most prolific of British filmmakers,” she said, "awarded our highest accolade, a BFI Fellowship, for his outstanding contribution to British film, everything from three Bond films – including the best, You Only Live Twice – and definitive stories of British bravery in WWII with Carve Her Name with Pride and Reach for the Sky, to three films that will forever be remembered for their working class heroes: Alfie, Rita and Shirley.

"In Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, he gave us funny and real character-studies of women we normally never get a chance to see on the big screen."

He will be missed. RIP.


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