Retrospective Basil Dearden

Metropolis Kino

(Feb, March, April 2022)

When you mention British director Basil Dearden to a group of cinephiles, every so often you get euphoric feedback about his early war dramas such as FRIEDA (1947) and THE CAPTIVE HEART (1946) or the outstanding British film noir POOL OF LONDON (1951). But usually, German film aficionados shrug their shoulders: most of the more than 50 movies Basil Dearden directed or produced are actually unknown or have been long forgotten in Germany.

Dearden, born in 1911, first gained experience in artistic narratives at the theater, before switching to film when he was hired by Basil Dean of Associated Talking Pictures. When Dean returned to the world of theater in the late 1930s, successful producer Michael Balcon took over the company and made it world-famous under the name of “Ealing Studios”. As of the 1940s, Basil Dearden formed an incredibly productive artistic team with Michael Relph, who was henceforth always by his side, first as an art director and later as the producer of his films. When Ealing Studios folded in 1957, Dearden and Relph continued working together as an independent team and released audience favorites such as the gangster movie THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN (1960) and the comedy THE SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH (1957) as well as a series of pioneering social dramas that dealt with juvenile delinquency (VIOLENT PLAYGROUND, 1958), racism (SAPPHIRE, 1959), the criminal persecution of homosexuals (VICTIM, 1961 – the first-ever British film about this subject) and religious fundamentalism (LIFE FOR RUTH, 1962). In the 1960s, Dearden also worked on Hollywood productions for United Artists, such as the epic KHARTOUM (1966). His last film was released in 1970, the psychological thriller THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF with Roger Moore in the leading role, three years before Moore played James Bond for the first time.

In all of his movies, no matter what genre – mystery drama, propaganda comedy, film noir or social drama – Dearden’s immense dedication to the characters in his films always resonates. Without any finger-wagging or lecturing he allows the audience to comprehend for themselves the reasons for human (mis)behavior. Time and again, he dedicates his attention to people who are repressed, people who have been ostracized, and reflects on the social justice and societal problems. Each of his films show British life in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. But perhaps it is precisely now, at a time when Brexit has thrown Britain’s political leadership into the limelight (again), that drawing comparisons of how life in the United Kingdom took shape more than 70 years ago becomes ever more fascinating.

As part of the Retrospective, we will be showing 34 films in total, 33 of which he (co-)directed, and THIS MAN IS NEWS (1938), the first movie that he co-wrote. An accompanying catalog comprises 34 new reviews of the films presented, written by authors who in some cases had never come across any of Dearden’s films before but are now delighted to be able to continue discovering his oeuvre beyond their work for this publication. The entertaining reviews serve to provide you with interesting facts about the people involved in the respective productions, background information on the movies’ creation, as well as references to other contemporary film productions. Half of Basil Dearden’s films exist in the form of 35mm copies, a third have been digitally restored and all are available in their original language. Unfortunately, our dream of providing a complete retrospective remains unfulfilled due to the lack of availability of some of the material. We very much hope that this first big presentation of Basil Dearden’s extensive work – both on screen and in this publication – will finally give Basil Dearden the long-overdue recognition he deserves in the German-speaking world and thus create a new cinephile public.

All films until march you will find here:

Metropolis Kino, Kleine Theaterstr. 10
Tickets also online:

Photos copyright: © Park Circus/ITV Studios and © Studiocanal

Author: Couch Theatre

An English and German-language theatre production company in Hamburg, Germany specializing in readings and stage readings / Eine Theaterproduktionsfirma in Hamburg, die sich auf Lesungen und szenische Lesungen in englischer und deutscher Sprache spezialisiert.

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