Sidney Gilliat

Sidney Gilliat (15 February 1908 31 May 1994) was an English film director, producer and writer.

Sidney Gilliat
Born(1908-02-15)15 February 1908
Died31 May 1994(1994-05-31) (aged 86)
  • Film director
  • producer
  • writer
Spouse(s)Beryl Brewer (1910-1981)
2 children

He was the son of George Gilliat, editor of the Evening Standard between 1928-1933. Sidney was born in the district of Edgeley in Stockport, Cheshire. In the 1930s he worked as a scriptwriter, most notably with Frank Launder on The Lady Vanishes (1938) for Alfred Hitchcock, and Night Train to Munich (1940), directed by Carol Reed. He and Launder made their directorial debut co-directing the home front drama Millions Like Us (1943). From 1945 he also worked as a producer, starting with The Rake's Progress, which he also wrote and directed. He and Launder made over 40 films together, founding their own production company Individual Pictures. While Launder concentrated on directing their comedies, most famously the four St Trinian's School films, Gilliat showed a preference for comedy-thrillers and dramas, including Green for Danger (1946), London Belongs to Me (1948) and State Secret (1950).

He wrote the libretto for Malcolm Williamson's opera Our Man in Havana, based on the novel by Graham Greene. He had also worked on the film.


Gilliat was fired from his first job in the story department of Elstree after he was overheard criticising a producer's work.[3]

Walter Forde

Gilliat's early screen credits were on films directed by Walter Forde including Red Pearls (1930), Lord Richard in the Pantry (1930), Bed and Breakfast (1930), You'd Be Surprised! (1930), The Ghost Train (1931), The Ringer (1931) and Third Time Lucky (1931).

He also wrote The Happy Ending (1931) and A Gentleman of Paris (1931).

Gillat's first major credit as a screenwriter was Rome Express (1932) directed by Forde. He and Frank Launder worked on the script for Facing the Music (1933) but they did not actually work together.

Gilliat was credited as writer on Friday the Thirteenth (1933); Orders Is Orders (1933); Falling for You (1933) with Jack Hulbert; Jack Ahoy (1934) with Hulbert; Chu Chin Chow (1934); Bulldog Jack (1935) with Hulbert; My Heart is Calling (1935); and Strangers on Honeymoon (1936).

He worked on a Will Hay film, Where There's a Will (1936), and a horror film The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936).

Frank Launder

Gilliat's first movie with Launder is Twelve Good Men (1936). They also collaborated on Seven Sinners (1936).

Without Launder he did Take My Tip (1937) for Hulbert; A Yank at Oxford (1938) for MGM; Strange Boarders (1938); and The Gaunt Stranger (1938) with Sonnie Hale. Gilliat and Launder collaborated on The Lady Vanishes (1938).

Gilliat wrote another for Hay, Ask a Policeman (1939), and was one of several writers on Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939). With Launder he did Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday (1939) and Night Train to Munich (1940), the latter for Carol Reed. For Reed Gilliat wrote on his own a thriller Girl in the News (1940). Gilliat began writing war time shorts such as Mr. Proudfoot Shows a Light (1941).

He and Launder worked on They Came by Night (1940), and Reed's The Young Mr Pitt (1942). Alone, Gilliat adapted Kipps (1941) for Reed.


Launder and Gillat wanted to become producers and directors. Their first effort as co-directors was a short, Partners in Crime (1942). Then they made the feature Millions Like Us (1943) which was a success, launching them as producers and directors.

Gilliat helped write Two Thousand Women (1944) which Launder directed. Without Launder, Gilliat wrote and directed Waterloo Road (1945) with John Mills and Stewart Granger. But normally both men would produce and write the script and take turns directing.

Gilliat directed The Rake's Progress (1945) with Rex Harrison; Green for Danger (1946); and London Belongs to Me (1948). Launder directed I See a Dark Stranger (1946), Captain Boycott (1947), The Blue Lagoon (1949) and The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950).

Gilliat directed the thriller State Secret (1950) while Launder did Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951) and Folly to Be Wise (1953). Around this time they announced a film about Dunkirk and a science fiction story but neither was made.[4]

Instead Gilliat directed The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (1953), then Launder did The Belles of St Trinian's (1954). Gilliat did The Constant Husband (1955) with Rex Harrison followed by Launder's Geordie (1955).

They wrote and produced, but did not direct The Green Man (1956) and produced The Smallest Show on Earth (1957). Gilliat directed Fortune Is a Woman (1957), a thriller with Jack Hawkins while Launder did Blue Murder at St Trinian's (1957) and The Bridal Path (1959).

In 1958 they joined the board of British Lion.[3]

Gilliat directed Left Right and Centre (1959), a political satire after which Launder did The Pure Hell of St Trinian's (1960). Gilliat had a big hit with Only Two Can Play (1962), which he directed. He produced Joey Boy (1965), and then both men directed The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery (1966).

They worked on a script, Sex and the British, for two years but had to abandon it when British divorce laws made the concept obsolete.[3] Instead they made Endless Night (1972) which Gilliat directed. He and Launder produced Ooh… You Are Awful (1972).

Personal life

Gilliat married Beryl Brewer in the early 1930s. He had two children: Joanna Gilliat and the late Caroline Gilliat, and three grandchildren: Amanda Eliasch née Brown a writer and Fashion Editor/Artist, Toby Brown and the late Camilla Horn née Russell. He died in Wiltshire, England on 31 May 1994 aged 86. Sidney Gilliat has four great grandchildren, Charles who is a drag queen and Jack Eliasch and Lara and Alicia Horn.

His brother was the producer Leslie Gilliat who worked with him.

Selected films


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