Guy Green was Director of Photography on Walt Disney’s ‘Story of Robin Hood.’ As a co-founder of the British Society of Cinematographers, Green was to become a leading figure in Britain and the United States for over 40 years.
Green was born in Frome, Somerset on November 5th in 1913. His first love was always the cinema and much of his early childhood was spent watching his favorite westerns and the classic silent comedies on the silver screen at his local Picture House.
After leaving school he found work in the Commercial Maritime Service as a projectionist on the cruise liner ‘Majestic.’ This eventually led to his first early steps in the film business as a ‘clapperboy’ and camera assistant for Sound City advertising agency.
In London’s Soho, Guy Green opened his very own studio, where he worked as a portrait photographer. But still in his early twenties, he finally made his way into motion picture production, when he was hired as a camera assistant at Elstree Studios in 1933. He soon progressed to ‘focus puller’ and later as ‘director of photography.’
But it was at Denham Studios filming ‘One of Our Aircraft is Missing’ in 1942 that Green first met up with David Lean. Lean at that time was employed as film editor and the two of them soon struck up a firm friendship. When Lean became a director he brought in Guy Green as his camera operator, on Noel Coward’s ‘In Which We Serve’ (1942) and ‘This Happy Breed’ (1944).
Green soon began gaining a reputation for his stunning atmospheric cinematography and David Lean put that talent to brilliant effect when they teamed up on ‘Great Expectations' (1946). This classic of British cinema, which included Martitia Hunt as Miss Havisham, gained Guy Green an Academy Award-the first British director to do so.
Two years later the collaboration worked again with another masterpiece, ‘Oliver Twist’ (1948). It was on the set of this movie that Green first met his future wife, Josephine. They later had two children, Marilyn and Michael; both were later involved in the film industry.
After his success with ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Oliver Twist’, Guy Green- together with Freddie Young and Jack Cardiff-founded the British Society of Cinematographers. His work continued with 'The Passionate Friends' (1949), 'Adam and Evelyn' (1949), 'Madelyn' (1950), 'Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.' (1951) , 'Night Without Stars' (1951) and two for Walt Disney, 'The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men' (1952) and 'Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue' (1953).
By the mid-fifties Guy Green, inspired by David Lean, gave up cinematography and started directing. His first major success came with 'The Angry Silence' (1960) starring Richard Attenborough and Michael Craig. This controversial film about a man’s experience of refusing to take part in an unofficial strike, was Britain’s first entry at the Berlin Film Festival. It went on to win the International Critic’s Award.
Green’s successful work as director, continued with ‘The Mark’ in 1961. With strong performances by Stuart Whitman, Maria Schell and Rod Steigar, this powerful drama about a 33 year old man re-building his life after being released from prison for intent to commit child molestation was nominated for many awards including the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 1962 Guy Green moved to Hollywood and began filming, what he later described as his ‘proudest work,’ ‘A Patch of Blue.’ Written, directed and produced by Green, this interracial drama about a chance encounter between a blind girl (Elizabeth Hartman) and a black office worker (Sidney Poitier), was nominated for five Academy Awards. Green was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and Shelly Winters received an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role as the blind girl's prostitute mother.
He had success in 1973 with his re-direction of John Osborne’s ‘Luther’ for the American Film Theater. But over the next ten years his work failed to reach the high standards he had previously set. ‘The Magus’ (1968) received a critical mauling and ‘Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough’ (1974) was described as ‘garishly budgeted and ponderously executed.’
Green turned in 1979 to directing American TV movies. His last production was Arthur Hailey’s ‘Strong Medicine’ (1986).
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts gave Green a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to World Cinema in 2002 and in 2004 he was named as Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his lifetime contributions to British cinema.
After a long illness he passed away at his Beverly Hills home on September 15th 2005 aged 91.
© Clement of the Glen 2008