Basil Dearden bigraphy, stories - Film

Basil Dearden : biography

1 January 1911 - 23 March 1971

Basil Dearden (born Basil Clive Dear; 1 January 1911 – 23 March 1971) was an English film director.


The film critic David Thomson does not hold Dearden in high regard. He writes: "[Dearden's] films are decent, empty, and plodding and his association with Michael Relph is a fair representative of the British preference for bureaucratic cinema. It stands for the underlining of obvious meaning".David Thomson A New Biographical Dictionary of Film, London: Little, Brown, 2002, p.213

More positively, for Brian McFarlane, the Australian writer on film: "Dearden's films offer, among other rewards, a fascinating barometer of public taste at its most nearly consensual over three decades".Brian McFarlane (ed.) The Encyclopedia of British Film, 2003, London: Methuen/BFI, p.168

Life and career

Dearden was born at Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex. He graduated from theatre direction to film, working as an assistant to Basil Dean. He later changed his own name to Dearden to avoid confusion with his mentor.

He first began working as a director at Ealing Studios, co-directing comedy films with Will Hay, including The Goose Steps Out (1942) and My Learned Friend (1943). He worked on the influential chiller compendium Dead of Night (1945) and directed the linking narrative and the "Hearse Driver" segment. He also directed The Captive Heart starring Michael Redgrave, a 1946 British war drama, produced by Ealing Studios. The film was entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival. The Blue Lamp (1950), probably the most frequently shown of Dearden's Ealing films, is a police drama which first introduced audiences to PC George Dixon, later resurrected for the long-running Dixon of Dock Green television series. His last Ealing film, Out of the Clouds, was released in 1955.

In later years he became associated with the writer and producer Michael Relph, and the two men made films on subjects generally not tackled by British cinema in this era. These included homosexuality (Victim, 1961) and race relations (Pool of London, 1951; Sapphire, 1959). In the late 1960s Dearden also made some big-scale epics including Khartoum (1966), with Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier, and the Victorian era black comedy The Assassination Bureau (1969), again with Michael Relph.

His last film was The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) with Roger Moore, with whom he later made three episodes of the television series The Persuaders!: Overture, Powerswitch and To the Death, Baby.

He had two sons, Torquil Dearden and the screenwriter and director James Dearden.

Basil Dearden died in a road accident in London in 1971, aged 60.

Selected filmography

  • This Man Is News (1938) (writer)
  • Let George Do It (1940) (writer)
  • Spare a Copper (1941) (writer, producer)
  • Turned Out Nice Again (1941) (writer, producer)
  • The Black Sheep of Whitehall (1942) (co-director)
  • The Goose Steps Out (1942) (co-director)
  • The Bells Go Down (1943) (director)
  • My Learned Friend (1943) (co-director)
  • The Halfway House (1944) (director)
  • They Came to a City (1945) (writer, director)
  • Dead of Night (1945) (director, segments "Hearse Driver" and "Linking Narrative")
  • The Captive Heart (1946) (director)
  • Frieda (1947) (director)
  • Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948) (director)
  • Train of Events (1949) (writer, director; segments "The Actor" and "The Prisoner-of-War")
  • The Blue Lamp (1950) (director)
  • Cage of Gold (1950) (director)
  • Pool of London (1951) (director)
  • I Believe in You (1952) (writer, director)
  • The Gentle Gunman (1952) (director)
  • The Square Ring (1953) (director, producer)
  • The Rainbow Jacket (1954) (director)
  • Out of the Clouds (1955) (director)
  • The Ship That Died of Shame (1955) (writer, director, producer)
  • Who Done It? (1956) (director, producer)
  • The Smallest Show on Earth (1957) (director)
  • Rockets Galore! (1957) (producer)
  • Davy (1957) (producer)
  • Violent Playground (1958) (director)
  • The League of Gentlemen (1959) (director)
  • Desert Mice (1959) (producer)
  • Sapphire (1959) (director)
  • Man in the Moon (1960) (writer, director)
  • All Night Long (1961) (director, producer)
  • Victim (1961) (director, producer)
  • The Secret Partner (1961) (director)
  • Life for Ruth (1962) (director, producer)
  • A Place to Go (1963) (director)
  • The Mind Benders (1963) (director)
  • Woman of Straw (1964) (director)
  • Masquerade (1965) (director)
  • Khartoum (1966) (director)
  • Only When I Larf (1968) (director)
  • The Assassination Bureau (1969) (director)
  • The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) (writer, director)
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