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Sight and Sound (2002) - Profile: Foreign Correspondent




Wrathall interviews Gavin Lambert, an Oscar-nominated movie director, and asks why so many British filmmakers flourish in Los Angeles.


To open a 70th-anniversary series John Wrathall talks to former S&S editor Gavin Lambert and asks why so many British film-makers flourish in LA

For as long as it has existed, the British film industry has lurched cyclically between boom and bust, and the recent collapse of FilmFour only highlights the sector's unpredictability. In such circumstances it's easy to see why ever since the 19305 so many British writers and directors have forsaken their native land for Hollywood. It's where the money is. The climate is enticing. And unlike their fellow Europeans, Britons have no language barrier to contend with. In fact, the attractions are so obvious that those who succumb to them are often accused of selling out. As Gavin Lambert wrote in these pages in November 1993, in an obituary of Tony Richardson, who headed west after Tom Jones swept the 1964 Oscars: "One of the more peculiar ethical hang-ups of the English is that an Englishman may expatriate himself to France or Italy without selling his soul to the devil, but if he transplants himself to California he's hell-bent for corruption. Although nobody reproached Graham Greene for settling in Antibes, Isherwood, Huxley, Hitchcock, Hockney and the rest took a great deal of flak when they moved to Los Angeles."

The attitude Lambert identifies dates back to 1939, when Britons who sat out World War II in California were pilloried as deserters. Some indeed were committed pacifists, including Aldous Huxley and Robert Stevenson, who directed Huxley's 1944 adaptation of Jane Eyre for 20th Century Fox. Others - Alfred Hitchcock for one - may have seen their work in Holl...

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