Jack Clayton  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Jack Clayton (1 March, 192126 February, 1995) was a British film director who specialised in bringing literary works to the screen.

Clayton started his career working for Alexander Korda's Denham Studios and rose from tea boy to assistant director to film editor.

After service with the Royal Air Force during World War II, he became an associate producer on many of Korda's films, then directed the Oscar-winning short The Bespoke Overcoat (1956) based on Wolf Mankowitz's theatrical version (1953) of Gogol's short story The Overcoat (1842). In this film Gogol's story is re-located to a clothing warehouse in the East End of London and the ghostly protagonist is a poor Jew.

His first feature was the internationally acclaimed Room at the Top (1959), a harsh indictment of the British class system, which won two Oscars, earned Clayton a Best Director nomination, and was credited with spearheading Britain's movement toward realism in films.

Clayton followed with the classic ghost story The Innocents (1961), based on Henry James The Turn of the Screw, then laid back for several years, establishing a pattern he followed thereafter.

He directed The Pumpkin Eater (1964), Our Mother's House (1967), and then, seven years later, the high-profile American production of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1974).

Perhaps in response to its failure, he didn't take another assignment for nine years — the Disney studio production of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), which was another disappointment.

His last feature film, the British-made The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987), featured a superb performance by Maggie Smith as a spinster who struggles with the emptiness of her life; it won Clayton critical plaudits for the first time in many years. He reteamed with Smith in 1992 for a television film Memento Mori, based on the novel by Muriel Spark, for which he also co-wrote the screenplay.

When asked his religion, he replied: "ex-Catholic".

He was married to the Israeli actress Haya Harareet until his death.


  • World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945–1985. ed. J. Wakeman. pp 224–227. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.

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