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A Man with Intent

28 May 2008
David Lean with Cornell Borchers and Anthony Havelock-Allan in 1954BAFTA Archive

Famed producer, Sir Anthony Havelock-Allan recollects a long association with Sir David Lean in an edition of BAFTA News from June 1991.

Anthony Havelock-Allan worked as a producer on some of David Lean’s most successful and critically acclaimed films including In Which We Serve (1942), Brief Encounter (1945), Blithe Spirit (1945), Great Expectations (1946) and Ryans’ Daughter (1970). He formed the creative partnership of Cineguild Productions with Noel Coward, David Lean and Ronald Neame and became one of the most influential producers in British cinema.

Havelock-Allan also played a hugely influential role in the history of the Academy. He sat on the Council of Management between 1949 - 1966 (incorporating both the British Film Academy & the Society of Film and Television Arts) taking up the BFA Chair (1954-1955), the BFA Vice-Chair (1953/54 and 1955/56) and the SFTA Chair (1962/63).

In the year of Lean’s death he paid this tribute to his friend and colleague.

His passion for film was exclusive of everything else, and listening to him, his passion was infectious...

BAFTA News (The Journal of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts)
Volume 2, Number 5
June 1991

“I met David Lean in 1934. I was working as a casting Director at British & Dominion’s Borehamwood Studios: David was working in the cutting rooms. The head of the editing department at the studio was an American, Merrill White, whom Herbert Wilcox has persuaded to leave the Fox Studios in Hollywood to come to England to edit the series of films he was planning (for his “discovery” Marjorie Robertson, later to be famous as Anna Neagle).

Merrill White was an editor of genius. In interviews in later life David always acknowledged that he had learned from Merill much of the skill in editing and story-telling which he employed to such great effect both as an editor and as a director. What struck me about David at that first meeting, and subsequently over the years, was the intensity with which he approached everything. He was at all times fiercely intent on whatever he was talking about and it was, of course, nearly always about film: the film that he was editing, the film that he had recently seen that had impressed him, some film that was being made on which he would have liked to have been the editor. His passion for film was exclusive of everything else, and listening to him, his passion was infectious.”