Oscar Directors: Clayton, Jack, Room at the Top

Born in 1921, in Brighton, England, Jack Clayton died in 1995.

Clayton Went to work for London Films at 14 and for several years performed various functions, eventually moving up to assistant director, then film editor. During WW II, he served with the film unit of the RAF, as a cameraman, editor, director, and commanding officer.

After the war, Clayton worked as a production manager on Alexander Korda’s “An Ideal Husband” (1948), and as associate producer on “The Queen of Spades” (1949), “Flesh and Blood” (1950), “Moulin Rouge” (1953), “Beat the Devil” (1954), and “I Am a Camera” (1955).

He then turned to directing with the medium-length “The Bespoke Overcoat” (1955), which won a prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Clayton’s first feature as director, “Room at the Top” (1959), for which he was nominated for Best Director, is his most fully realized and best known work.

It began a trend in British films toward raw sensuality and frank treatment of social issues. He subsequently directed a number of fine productions through 1967.

After a long absence, he returned to films in 1974 as the director of the lavishly decorative but disappointing adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

After that, he made two more films, “Something Wicket This Way Comes” (1983) and “The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne” (1987), boasting a strong performance by Maggie Smith.

Oscar Context

In 1959, Clayton competed for the Best Director Oscar with William Wyler, who won for “Ben-Hur,” George Stevens for “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Billy Wilder for “Some Like It Hot,” and Fred Zinnemann for “The Nun’s Story.”