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David Hemmings

David Hemmings in Eye of the Devil (1967)
Born 18 November 1941(1941-11-18)
Guildford, Surrey, England
Died 3 December 2003 (aged 62)
Bucharest, Romania

David Hemmings (18 November 1941 – 3 December 2003) was an English film actor and director, whose most famous role was the photographer in Blowup. In his later acting career, he was known for his distinctive eyebrows and gravelly voice.

Contents

Career

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Early performances

Born in Guildford, Surrey, his education at Alleyn's School and Glyn Technology School led him to start his career performing as a boy soprano in several works by Benjamin Britten, who formed a close friendship with him at this time. Most notably, he created the role of Miles in the opera Turn of the Screw. Hemmings' intimate, yet innocent, relationship with Britten is described in John Bridcut's Britten's Children. Although many commentators identified Britten's relationship with Hemmings as based on an infatuation, throughout his life Hemmings maintained categorically that Britten's conduct with him was beyond reproach at all times.

Film and television work

Hemmings then moved on to acting and directing in the cinema. He made his first film appearance in The Rainbow Jacket (1954), but it was in the mid-sixties that he first became well known as a pin-up and film star. Antonioni, who detested the "Method" way of acting, sought to find a fresh young face for the lead in his next production, Blowup. It was then that he found Hemmings, at the time acting in small stage theatre in London. Following Blowup, Hemmings appeared in a string of major British films, including Camelot (1967), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) and Alfred the Great (1969) (in which he played the title role). His short stature, sleepy eyes and undershot jaw made him an unconventional leading man, but unconventional was right for the times, and he became one of the princes of the 'swinging London' scene. In keeping with his standing as a 1960s icon, he also appeared in Barbarella (1968).

Around 1967, Hemmings was also briefly considered for the role of Alex in a planned film version of Anthony Burgess' controversial novel A Clockwork Orange which was to be based on a screen treatment by satirist Terry Southern and British photographer Michael Cooper. Cooper and The Rolling Stones were reportedly upset by the move and it was decided to return to the original plan in which Mick Jagger would play Alex, with the rest of The Rolling Stones as his droog gang, but the production was shelved after Britain's chief censor, the Lord Chamberlain, indicated that he would not permit it to be made.[1] An (Italian) cult movie in which Hemmings appeared was the 1975 thriller Profondo Rosso (also known as Deep Red or The Hatchet Murders) directed by Dario Argento.

In 1978, Hemmings directed David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich in Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo (also known as Just a Gigolo). The film was poorly received, Bowie describing it as "my 32 Elvis Presley movies rolled into one".[2 ] Hemmings directed a film version of James Herbert's novel The Survivor, starring Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter, in 1981. Throughout the 1980s he also worked extensively as a director on television programmes including Magnum, P.I. (in which he also played characters in several episodes), The A-Team and Airwolf, in which he also played the role of Doctor Charles Henry Moffet, Airwolf's twisted creator, in the pilot and the second season episode "Moffett's Ghost" (a typographical error by the studio's titles unit). He once joked, "People thought I was dead. But I wasn't. I was just directing The A-Team." In 1984 he directed the puzzle contest video Money Hunt: The Mystery of the Missing Link. In 1985, Hemmings directed the film adaptation of Ken Follett's popular work The Key to Rebecca. He also briefly served as a producer on the NBC series Stingray.

Hemmings played a vindictive cop in the 1980 movie Beyond Reasonable Doubt about Arthur Allan Thomas, a New Zealand farmer jailed for the murder of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe but later pardoned. In 1992, he directed Dark Horse and as an actor returned to the voyeuristic preoccupations of his Blowup character with a plum part as the Big Brother-esque villain in the season three opener for Tales From the Crypt. In later years, he had roles in the blockbuster movie Gladiator (2000), playing Cassius, with Russell Crowe, Last Orders and "Spy Game", directed by Tony Scott (2001). In 2002 he played Mr. Shemerhorn in Gangs of New York. One of his final film appearances was a cameo role in the cult hit, Equilibrium (2002), shortly before his death.

Music

In 1967 Hemmings recorded a pop single ("Back Street Mirror", written by Gene Clark) and an album, David Hemmings Happens, in Los Angeles. The album featured instrumental backing by several members of the Byrds, and was produced by Byrds mentor Jim Dickson. Hemmings also later provided the narration for Rick Wakeman's progressive rock adaptation of Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which was recorded live. In 1975 he starred as Bertie Wooster in the short-lived Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Jeeves. Hemmings also managed the career of Canadian rocker Pat Travers during the latter half of the 1970s.

Personal life

Hemmings married four times, the most famous of his wives being the Fort Worth, Texas-born actress and long-term British resident, Gayle Hunnicutt, mother of his son, Nolan Hemmings.

Death

In December 2003, Hemmings died of a heart attack, in Romania, on the film set of Blessed, (working title Samantha's Child) after playing his scenes for the day. He was 62. His funeral was held in Calne, Wiltshire, where he had made his home for several years.

Partial filmography

Notes

  1. ^ Lee Hill - A Grand Guy: The Life and Art of Terry Southern (Bloomosbury, 2002), p.149
  2. ^ Angus MacKinnon (1980). "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be". NME (13 September 1980): pp.32-37

Further reading

David Hemmings (2004). Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations: The Autobiography of David Hemmings. ISBN 1-86105-789-X.

External links


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