Walter Summers

Walter Summers (1892[1]–1973) was a British film director and screenwriter.[2]

Walter Summers
Born2 September 1892
Barnstaple, Devon, United Kingdom
DiedApril 1973
Wandsworth, London, United Kingdom
Years active1922-1940


Born in Barnstaple to a family of actors, British motion picture director Walter Summers began his career in the family trade; his first contact with filmmaking was as an assistant to American director George Loane Tucker, who worked for the English London Films unit from 1914 to 1916. With the outbreak of war, Summers mobilized into the British Army, gaining experiences that would serve him well later as a filmmaker. At war’s end, Summers worked briefly for Cecil Hepworth, and then the Territorial Unit in India before making contact with producer/director George B. Samuelson. Samuelson hired Summers as a writer, primarily on films starring the popular actress Lillian Hall-Davis such as Maisie’s Marriage (1923). Summers co-directed a couple of pictures with Samuelson before flying solo for the first time with a drama, A Couple of Down and Outs (1923). Summers followed this up with Who Is the Man? a drama which received mixed reviews but is included on the "BFI 75 Most Wanted" list of missing British feature films and which launched the film career of John Gielgud.[3]. Summers fathered two children with his wife Dora Summers: Jill Summers [4], who also worked in the film industry and was head of make-up at the BBC before her retirement in the 1980s, and Jeremy Summers, who was also a film and television director[5]. A plaque appears commemorating Summers appears on the wall of 10 Parkway in Welwyn Garden City, a house he occupied with his family for a period in the 1940s [6].

British Instructional Films

Tiring of Samuelson’s on again, off again production schedule, Summers left and worked on a couple of features for even smaller concerns before landing at British Instructional Films, or BIF. There he directed historical battle recreations that are regarded as his most significant films: Ypres (1925), Mons (1926), Nelson (1926), The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands (1927) and Bolibar (1928). The Battles of the Coronel and the Falkland Islands was so popular that it was reissued in a sound version under the title The Deeds Men Do (1932). The film was restored and re-released by the BFI in 2014.

British International Pictures

In 1929, BIF reorganized as British International Pictures or BIP. Summers went into the sound era continuing his string of successes, including Chamber of Horrors (1929, the last British silent), Lost Patrol (1929, later remade by John Ford), Raise the Roof (1930, starring Betty Balfour and regarded as the first British musical), The Flame of Love (1930) starring Anna May Wong and Suspense (1930), a psychological thriller set in the trenches of World War I. In time, however, BIP began to persuade Summers towards more routine material, in keeping with their usual product stream. Burned out, he left BIP in 1936 and worked for a time with a small, formerly BIP-owned unit, Welwyn Studios. When BIP reorganized again as Associated British, Summers seemed to gain a second wind in making his last films, which number among his best – Premiere (1938), Traitor Spy (1938), At the Villa Rose (1939) and the film for which he is best known outside England, Dark Eyes of London (1939) with Bela Lugosi. Although all were Associated British productions, the last three titles were filmed at Welwyn.

When World War II broke out, Summers enlisted again. After the war he returned to work at Associated British, but made no more films. Summers seems to have lost interest in making motion pictures and drifted away from the industry, and was forgotten by the time of his death.

Selected filmography


Walter Summers on IMDb

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