Legendary director, cinematographer, writer and producer Ronald Neame died today at the age of 99. My first conscious introduction to Neame was as a boy seeing his filmed musical adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, called SCROOGE, in the movie theaters. The film has a spotty reputation and came at the end of an era when the filmed musical was starting to die. But Albert Finney’s Scrooge is still one of my favorites and the film is a seasonal tradition in my home. I still love it dearly and it never fails to make me cry.
Then came THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, which I saw repeatedly during its first run. I was obsessed. Then THE ODESSA FILE, which I loved, followed by the fun but somewhat misguided METEOR and then the sorely underrated Walter Matthau film HOPSCOTCH.
Years later, I went back in Mr. Neame’s directing career to catch up on his earlier works which included the amazing Alec Guinness films THE HORSE’S MOUTH and TUNES OF GLORY. There was also Judy Garland’s final film I COULD GO ON SINGING, as well as the popular TV biopic THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE.
Around that same time, I discovered Neame’s work as the amazing cinematographer of many of David Lean’s earlier works: IN WHICH WE SERVE, THIS HAPPY BREED, and BLITHE SPIRIT, as well as the Powell/Pressburger ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING. And these films signaled the end of Neame’s career as a cinematographer after having shot a whopping 45 films between 1933 and 1945!
Add a producer credit to many of the above films as well as such classics as BRIEF ENCOUNTER, GREAT EXPECTATIONS and OLIVER TWIST. Neame was also credited as writer on THIS HAPPY BREED, BLITHE SPIRIT, BRIEF ENCOUNTER and GREAT EXPECTATIONS among others. Yes, this was a man whose contribution to film was irreplaceable. We thank you, Mr. Neame, for all the joy, creativity and adventures you sent our way. You are an inspiration.