Film-maker who tamed wild Bur­ton

Brian G Hut­ton

Sunday Express - - Lives Remembered -

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

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