Lewis Gilbert, Famed U.K. Director of ‘Alfie’ and 3 James Bond Films, Dies at 97

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Lewis Gilbert, the Oscar-nominated British film director behind more than 40 films, including Alfie and three James Bond titles, has died. He was 97.   Born in London, Gilbert started out as a child actor in the 1920s and 1930s and had an uncredited role alongside Laurence Olivier in 1938’s The Divorce of Lady X. But in his late teens he decided to move toward directing, assisting on Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn. lewis-gilbert-1After WWII — during which he worked for the Royal Air Force’s film unit on documentaries — he made a name for himself as a director on a number of successful war films, including Reach for the Sky, Carve Her Name With Pride and Sink the Bismark.  

 

Gilbert’s most famous film came in 1966 with Alfie, starring a rising Michael Caine. The low-budget film about a young womanizer would go on to win the Jury Special Prize in Cannes, and receive five Academy Award nominations, including one for best picture.

 

Shortly after Alfie, Gilbert was persuaded by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli to direct the fifth Bond film, 1967’s You Only Live Twice starring Sean Connery. It would be the first of three 007 titles he would helm, returning later for The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

 

The 1980s saw him return to smaller British drama, with 1983’s BAFTA-winning Educating Rita — reuniting him with Michael Caine and serving as a breakout film for Julie Walters — and 1989’s Shirley Valentine, both based on Willy Russell plays.

 

He was awarded the CBE in 1997 and in 2001 was made a fellow of the British Film Institute.

 

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:   AP
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