Frank Launder

Frank Launder

Launder joined the Brighton Repertory Company while working as a civil servant, and wrote a play produced by the company, "There Was No Signpost." This led to a trial as a scriptwriter, beginning with the silent "Cocktails" in 1928. Launder then went to work as a staff writer of British International Pictures, churning out scenario after scenario, including adaptations of Thomas Hardy's "Under the Greenwood Tree" (1928), and George Bernard Shaw's "How He Lied to Her Husband" (1931). Simultaneously, Launder was writing comedy material for Leslie Fuller and Ernie Lotinga, popular comics of the day, and wrote the story for "Oh, Mr. Porter," a 1937 comedy starring Will Hay. Launder first collaborated with Sidney Gilliat on "Seven Sinners" (1936), and in 1939 their stock rose with "The Lady Vanishes" for Hitchcock. They continued writing thrillers, such as "Night Train to Munich" (1940), then co-wrote and co-directed "Partners in Crime," a 1942 short film. It displayed their talents well enough so they could collaborate on the feature "Millions Like Us" (1943), a warm study of women working in the wartime factories. After that beginning, Launder and Gilliat would take turns directing, but usually co-wrote and co-produced their films, having formed their own company, Individual Pictures, in 1944. Launder directed the comedy thriller "I See a Dark Stranger" (1946), "Captain Boycott," an historical drama about poor Irish farmers who revolt, and "The Blue Lagoon" (1949) -- the original tale of youngsters marooned on a desert island from the novel by de Vere Stacpoole. But the St. Trinian's series, which began in 1950 with "The Happiest Days of Your Life" were Launder's most successful works. Alistair Sim starred in the films, playing both the headmistress of the school and, on occasion, her no-good brother. Launder also directed "Geordie" (1955), a film about a Scottish boy who is weakly as a youth and then becomes an Olympic champion. During the 60s, Gilliat and Launder were active in the management of British Lion, the indie film company, and devoted less time to writing and actual production. In 1972, Gilliat retired and Launder made his last film, "The Wilcats of St. Trinian's" in 1980, before retiring to the south of France. He died in Monaco in 1997, survived by his second wife, actress Bernadette O'Farrell.