Film-maker who tamed wild Burton
Brian G Hutton
HAD it not been for Brian G Hutton’s Welsh family connections the chances are he never would have got the opportunity to make the Second World War blockbuster Where Eagles Dare. He was a relatively inexperienced, unknown film director who had only three low-budget movies under his belt at the time but the film’s star Richard Burton had the final say over who would get to direct.
As as soon as he knew Hutton’s parents were Welsh he welcomed the rookie director aboard. “He and I used to sing Welsh songs together,” Hutton once recalled.
“But he used to laugh because my Welsh was actually very bad.”
Despite the film’s enduring appeal and the fact that it was box office gold when it was released Hutton was always surprised at the success the movie had.
“I’ve got to tell you, I look at it and I think to myself, ‘Gee, I wonder who did that?’” he once told an interviewer.”
He added: “After that, of course, I got offers to make 50 other action pictures but I didn’t want to make any. I made two and that was enough.”
Born in New York, Hutton started his career as an actor, honing his talent at the famous Actors Studio.
It wasn’t long before he landed supporting roles in major TV series
Director of Where Eagles Dare and Kelly’s Heroes
JANUARY 1, 1935 - AUGUST 19, 2014, AGED 79
such as Perry Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Rawhide, where he met Clint Eastwood.
He also had small roles in films such as Gunfight At The OK Corral, Last Train From Gun Hill and King Creole starring Elvis Presley.
But by 1965, Hutton was keen to try his hand at directing and made the little-seen Wild Seed for Marlon Brando’s Pennebaker Productions.
His follow-up, The Pad And How To Use It, based on a play by Peter Shaffer, was a hip, sexually provocative comedy about a swinging bachelor which proved far more successful when it was released a year later.
Before Where Eagles Dare he squeezed in The Heroin Gang starring Telly Savalas and David McCallum but it’s the 1968 classic starring Burton and Eastwood for which he will be best remembered.
Perhaps even more impressive than the action on screen was the fact that Hutton was able to keep notorious hellraiser Burton in check, something director Martin Ritt had failed to do a couple years earlier on The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, when Burton’s drinking played havoc with the production.
In 1969 Hutton started work on Kelly’s Heroes, a light-hearted movie about a group of Second World War soldiers who go Awol to rob a bank behind enemy lines.
It meant working again with Eastwood, who became a lifelong friend.
Although the film went on to become a worldwide hit, the postproduction period was a nightmare after the studio ordered the movie to be drastically cut.
For Hutton it signalled the beginning of the end of his Hollywood career. He made a couple more films with Elizabeth Taylor, including Night Watch in 1973.
However by then he’d already lost his enthusiasm for film-making.
“It wasn’t something I wanted to do to begin with – not my life’s work,” he later admitted.
He added: “When I finished the second Elizabeth Taylor picture I thought, ‘Well, what am I wasting my life doing this for?’
“I mean, a gorilla could have made those movies. All I had to do was yell ‘Action’ and ‘Cut-Print’ because everybody was doing what they had to do anyway.”
After a seven-year hiatus he returned to the big screen to make The First Deadly Sin and High Road To China before leaving Hollywood behind in the mid-1980s for a career in real estate.
He suffered a heart attack a week before he died and is survived by his wife Victoria. IN 1956, three years after The Boy Friend opened at London’s Players’ Theatre, the musical’s creator Sandy Wilson had become so wealthy on the back of the show’s success that he was told he need never work again.
He did of course, but none of his subsequent offerings ever achieved the same level of critical or commercial success as The Boy Friend.
Alexander Galbraithe Wilson was born in Sale, Greater Manchester, but his family moved to Hampstead in London while he was still young.
He was educated at Harrow where he had two years of piano tuition and then graduated from Oxford with a BA in English Literature.
While at Oxford he wrote revues for the university’s Experimental Theatre Club and then attended a production course at the Old Vic Theatre School, later writing a number of shows including Caprice in 1950.
The Boy Friend followed in 1953 and made Wilson’s name and reputation. Its West End run at the Wyndham’s Theatre lasted nearly 2,100 performances over more than five years.
Although it fared less well on Broadway, closing after 485 performances, it saw Julie Andrews make her debut in the lead role of Polly Browne.
A film version directed by Ken Russell followed in 1971 but Wilson hated it and said the only thing it had in common with his play was the title.
Other works included Divorce Me, Darling!, Call It Love, His Monkey Wife, Buccaneer and the revues See You Later, which starred Peter Cook, and the Hermione Gingold vehicle Slings And Arrows.
In 1975 he published his autobiography I Could Be Happy.
His partner Chak Yui survives him.
ACTION MEN: Hutton, inset, directed Eastwood and Burton, above in the Second World War classic
WEST END HIT: Sandy Wilson