Guy Hamilton and Roger Moore on the set of "The Man With the Golden Gun" in Thailand, 1974.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Cinema Retro mourns the loss of director Guy Hamilton, who has passed away at age 93. Guy was an old friend and supporter of our magazine and a wonderful talent and raconteur. Hamilton, though British by birth, spent much of his life in France. After WWII, he entered the film industry in England and served as assistant director to Sir Carol Reed, working on the classic film "The Third Man". He also served as AD on John Huston's "The African Queen". Gradually, he moved up the ladder to director and helmed such films as "An Inspector Calls", "The Colditz Story" and "The Devil's Disciple", the latter starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier. In 1964 Hamilton was hired to direct the third James Bond film "Goldfinger" and made cinema history. Hamilton found the perfect blend of humor and thrills and the film started the era of Bondmania that would see Sean Connery boosted to the status of international superstar. He also directed the Michael Caine spy thriller "Funeral in Berlin" for Bond producer Harry Saltzman in 1967. He worked once again for Saltzman on the ambitious epic WWII film "Battle of Britain" in 1969, a highly complex film to make given the logistics of recreating dogfights in the skies over England.
Bond producers Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli reached out to Guy Hamilton again in 1971 to direct "Diamonds Are Forever", the film that marked Sean Connery's return to the James Bond series after a four year absence. The film was an enormous success but it also initiated a swing toward more overt humor, which reflected Hamilton's personal vision of the series. When this writer asked him over a dinner in London many years ago if he felt that the increase in jokes and gags was an artistic mistake, Hamilton insisted it was not, although he acknowledged that he had probably alienated some of the more traditional Bond fans. In fact, Hamilton said that his initial plans for the script of "Diamonds Are Forever" would have seen Bond in Disneyland battling SPECTRE agents dressed as famous Disney characters. Hamilton's emphasis on laughs in the Bond films perfectly paved the way for the Roger Moore era which began in 1973 with "Live and Let Die". Hamilton was retained to direct that film as well. Moore agreed with Hamilton's emphasis on overt humor and that angle would largely define the Moore films which lasted through "A View to a Kill" in 1985. Hamilton would direct Moore's second Bond film, "The Man With the Golden Gun" in 1974. He was initially scheduled to direct "The Spy Who Loved Me" but due to his residency in France, tax complications ensued regarding his ability to work for an extended period in England. Ultimately, Lewis Gilbert directed the film. Hamilton's post-Bond era movies included the Agatha Christie thrillers "The Mirror Crack'd" and "Evil Under the Sun", as well as "Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins" and "Force Ten From Navarone". Of the latter, I once asked him if the disappointing movie went wrong during filming. Characteristically, Hamilton told me that it had a lousy script from day one and he knew it would be a lousy movie. However, he was winding down his involvement in the film industry and agreed to do the movie because the producers purchased a beautiful home for him in Spain. He said it was truly "an offer I couldn't refuse".
As age took its toll, Hamilton made fewer trips outside of Spain. However a few years ago, Cinema Retro's Dave Worrall and Gareth Owen accompanied Hamilton to an outdoor screening of "Goldfinger" in London. He had the satisfaction of seeing how well received his movie was even after half a century. Guy Hamilton was the epitome of the British gentleman and a skilled filmmaker as well. His contributions to the movie industry, and the James Bond series in particular, are secure in film history.