Ronald Neame

Ronald Neame

It would seem almost an inevitability that this son of pioneer photographer Elwin Neame and actress Ivy Close would seek a career in motion pictures. Following his father's untimely 1927 death, Neame began working, eventually taking on a position as an office boy at British International Pictures. While he briefly had a foray into portrait photography, he soon decided he preferred shooting moving images and set about to work his way through the system, starting as a camera assistant on the 1929 Alfred Hitchcock-directed "Blackmail." Following a six-year apprenticeship as a camera operator, Neame graduated to full-fledge director of photography on the historical drama "Drake of England" (1935). Over the next decade, he would shoot numerous features ranging from "A Star Fell From Heaven" (1936) to "Penny Paradise" (1938) to "Major Barbara" (1941) and "...One of Our Aircraft Is Missing" (1942). During the height of WWII, Neame served as cinematographer on the undisputed masterpiece "In Which We Serve" (1942), about the crew of a British fighting ship, co-directed by Noel Coward and David Lean. For Neame, it began a working relationship with Lean in which he branched out into other areas of filmmaking. Serving as executive in charge of production, he oversaw the now classic romance "Brief Encounter" (1945), co-wrote and produced both "Blithe Spirit" (1945, also photographed) and "Great Expectations" (1946), and produced "Oliver Twist" (1948). Neame stepped into the director's chair with the 1947 film "Take My Life" and went on to enjoy working with actor Alec Guinness in the comedies "The Card/The Promoter" (1952) and "The Horse's Mouth" (1958) and the superb war drama "Tunes of Glory" (1960). Over the course of his career, he proved a master with actors, guiding the Judy Garland vehicle "I Could Go On Singing" (1963, which hit rather close to home for its talented, if troubled star), and garnered praise for his handling of the eccentric Edith Evans in "The Chalk Garden" (1964). "Gambit" (1966) was a delightful caper comedy that teamed Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine and demonstrated his already well-honed comedic skills. Switching gears, Neame directed "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1969) and enjoyed one of his more successful ventures, steering leading lady Maggie Smith to a Best Actress Oscar as the fascistic Scottish schoolteacher.With "Scrooge" (1970), Neame showed a flair for large screen musicals, although he did encourage star Albert Finney to overact some in the title role. The director perhaps enjoyed his biggest hit with the all-star disaster-themed "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972). Although in retrospect the film has taken hits for its weak script, Neame managed to make the proceedings tolerable and enjoyable. He went on to helm the spy thriller "The Odessa File" (1974) and two Walter Matthau comedies, "Hopscotch" (1980) and "First Monday in October" (1981) before ending his career on a relatively high note with the fine comedy "Foreign Body" (1986).