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Jack Clayton
Born 1 March 1921(1921-03-01)
East Sussex, England
Died 26 February 1995 (aged 73)
Berkshire, England
Years active 1936 - 1992
Spouse(s) Christine Norden (1947-1953) (divorced)
Haya Harareet (?-1995) (his death)
Katherine Kath (?-?) (divorced)

Jack Clayton (1 March 1921 – 26 February 1995) was a British film director who specialised in bringing literary works to the screen.



A native of East Sussex, Clayton started his career working for Alexander Korda's Denham Studios and rose from tea boy to assistant director to film editor.

While in service with the Royal Air Force during World War II, he shot his first film, documentary Naples is a Battlefield (1944), representing the problems of reconstruction of Naples, the first great city liberated in World War II, ruined after Allied bombing and destruction caused by retreating Nazis. After war he became an associate producer on many of Korda's films, then directed the Oscar-winning short The Bespoke Overcoat (1956) based on Wolf Mankowitz's theatrical version (1953) of Nikolai Gogol's short story The Overcoat (1842). In this film Gogol's story is re-located to a clothing warehouse in the East End of London and the ghostly protagonist is a poor Jew.

His first feature was the internationally acclaimed Room at the Top (1959), a harsh indictment of the British class system, which won two Oscars, earned Clayton a Best Director nomination, and was credited with spearheading Britain's movement toward realism in films; in fact that film inaugurated a series of realist films known as the British New Wave, which featured for that time, unusually sincere treatments of sexual mores and introduced a new maturity into British cinema.

Clayton followed with the ghost story The Innocents (1961), based on Henry James The Turn of the Screw, then laid back for several years, establishing a pattern he followed thereafter.

He directed The Pumpkin Eater (1964), Our Mother's House (1967), and then, seven years later, the high-profile American production of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1974). It was an effective adaptation of the novel, but it did not fare well with the critics.

Perhaps in response to its failure, he did not take another assignment for nine years. He filmed Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), the Disney studio production, which fitted more closely with the ideas he had explored earlier, especially in the sense of the exposure of children to evil. But the finished film was compromise between Disney's insistence on a more commercial version and original vision of the director. Although the film was well received by critics, it was another disappointment for Clayton.

His last feature film, the British-made The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987), featured Maggie Smith as a spinster who struggles with the emptiness of her life; it won Clayton critical plaudits for the first time in many years. He worked with Smith again in 1992 for a television film Memento Mori, based on the novel by Muriel Spark, for which he also co-wrote the screenplay. Like previous ones, that film expressed quietly moving meditations on disappointment and aging.

Personal life

When asked his religion, he replied: "ex-Catholic". He was married to the Israeli actress Haya Harareet until his death.



  • World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945–1985. ed. J. Wakeman. pp 224–227. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.

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