Clive Donner

Clive Stanley Donner (21 January 1926 6 September 2010)[1][2] was a British film director who was part of the British New Wave, directing films such as The Caretaker, Nothing But the Best, What's New Pussycat?, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush. He also directed television movies and commercials through the mid-1990s.[1]

Clive Donner
Clive Stanley Donner

(1926-01-21)21 January 1926
London, England
Died6 September 2010(2010-09-06) (aged 84)
London, England
OccupationDirector, film editor
Years active1943–2010
Jocelyn Rickards
(m. 1969; died 2005)

Early career

Donner was born in West Hampstead, London. His father was a concert violinist and his mother ran a dress shop; his grandparents were Polish-Jewish immigrants.[1] Donner began his filmmaking career while attending Kilburn Polytechnic. He began working in the film industry as a cutting-room assistant at Denham Studios, having gained the job after joining his father, who was at the studio to record the soundtrack for the film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943).[3] Donner did national service with the Royal Army Educational Corps,[1] and afterwards was hired by Pinewood Studios as a film editor, where the movies he worked on included Scrooge (1951), with Alastair Sim; The Card (1952), with Alec Guinness; Genevieve (1953), the comedy about a vintage car rally; The Million Pound Note (1954), with Gregory Peck; and I Am a Camera (1955), with Laurence Harvey.[3]

Career as director

Early works

He began his professional directing career on a number of low-budget films, including the crime drama The Secret Place (1957) about a troubled youth starring Belinda Lee, Ronald Lewis and David McCallum, Heart of a Child (1958) a melodrama starring Jean Anderson and Donald Pleasence, and Some People (1962) a film about a group of alienated youths who form their own rock band, starring Kenneth More and Ray Brooks. His television work during that time included episodes of Danger Man (1960) and Sir Francis Drake (1961–62), as well as Mighty and Mystical, a documentary series about India.


Donner's breakthrough directing role came with The Caretaker (1963), a film made with a low-budget funded almost entirely by financial contributions starting at £1,000 each from such individuals as Richard Burton, Noël Coward, Peter Sellers and Elizabeth Taylor, with the stars bypassing their standard fees and taking shares of the film's revenue. The movie, based on the play of the same name by Harold Pinter, was filmed in black-and-white with cinematography by Nicolas Roeg.[3]

Donner's next film, Nothing But the Best (1964), was a satire on the British class system starring Alan Bates and Denholm Elliott, based on a screenplay by Frederic Raphael. The film tells the story of Jimmy Brewster (played by Bates) as a lower-class striver who seeks to move up in the system under the tutelage of his upper crust instructor Charlie Prince (Elliott).

Donner's first large-budget film was What's New Pussycat? (1965), an American-financed comedy shot in France, starring Peter O'Toole and Peter Sellers. O'Toole played the womanizer Michael James, who does his best to remain faithful to his fiancée Carole Werner (Romy Schneider), while numerous women Ursula Andress, Capucine, Paula Prentiss fall in love with him, with Sellers playing the role of his psychoanalyst, Dr. Fassbender. The success of the title song, performed by Tom Jones, added to the motion picture's success with audiences.[3] Woody Allen, who wrote the screenplay and made his first screen appearance in the movie, hated the end result, commenting that the vision he had for the movie in his original script had been distorted.[1]

Donner's film Luv (1967), an adaptation of the play by Murray Schisgal, starred Peter Falk, Jack Lemmon and Elaine May, but the addition of locations and characters to the original work led to criticism of the casting and direction, and the film was a commercial failure. Donner rounded out the 1960s with the 9th-century period piece Alfred the Great (1969), starring David Hemmings.


In 1973, Donner's essay into theatre, directing Robert Patrick's play Kennedy's Children at the King's Head Theatre, Islington was ultimately produced internationally.

Donner directed the film Vampira (US: Old Dracula, 1974), a comedy horror film of the vampire genre that sought to piggyback on the commercial success of Young Frankenstein for its US release. He directed the made-for-television movie Spectre (1977), produced by Gene Roddenberry.


The Nude Bomb (1980) is a comedy based on the television series Get Smart, which featured Don Adams reprising his role as secret agent Maxwell Smart.[3] Donner followed up with the parody Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981) featuring Angie Dickinson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Peter Ustinov.[2]

For television he directed a film version of The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) with Ian McKellen and Jane Seymour.[2] He followed with television production of the Charles Dickens classics Oliver Twist (1982) and A Christmas Carol (1984), both of which starred George C. Scott.[3]


Donner died at age 84 on 7 September 2010 in London due to complications of Alzheimer's disease.[3] His Australian wife, Jocelyn Rickards, a costume designer whom he met while working on Alfred the Great and married in 1969, had died in 2005.[3]


Donner discusses the making of all his films in the book Six English Filmmakers (2014, Paul Sutton) ISBN 978-0957246256

Selected filmography


  1. Ronald Bergan Obituary: Clive Donner, The Guardian, 7 September 2010
  2. "British film director Clive Donner dies at 84". BBC News. 7 September 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  3. Grimes, William. "Clive Donner, 1960s-Era Film Director, Dies at 84", The New York Times, 9 September 2010. Accessed 14 September 2010.

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