If you have seen The Towering Inferno, King Kong or The Death on the Nile, you are familiar with the directorial work of John Guillermin. But there are many other thoughtful gems directed by this English-born Frenchman who was nicknamed “The Wild Man.” His personal favorite was Rapture, a striking, Brittany-based psychological drama that was largely overlooked on its first release in 1965 but is now widely perceived as a bold and original movie by a master of his craft.
This is the first book to be published about John Guillermin’s life and films. Award-winning film critics, directors, film archivists and professors of film examine the thought and creativity of his directing and help answer the question of why you may not be more familiar with his work.
Lavishly illustrated and offering new critical appraisals of his key films from the 1950s to the 1980s, the book includes a never-before-published autobiographical essay and unique and invaluable insights by his widow, Mary, into the personality of a fascinating filmmaker. A full appreciation of his impressive body of work is long overdue and this book will delight and inform enthusiasts and film scholars alike. It offers fresh insight not only into this director, but also into the history of filmmaking and the British and US film industries of that time.
“Very few critical studies of film directors are also a love story. This one is.”— Neil Sinyard, Emeritus Professor of Film Studies at the University of Hull, UK
"...I went on to produce and direct 37 episodes of Ain’t It Cool with Harry Knowles, a PBS TV Series sponsored by IMAX that celebrated and educated audiences about all facets of cinematic history. It was during this time that I felt an obligation to finally reach out to John Guillermin. While wrapping Ain’t It Cool, I made a definitive effort to contact John and left a voicemail on an answering machine for a number that was his in Topanga, California. Afterwards, I was destroyed when I discovered that John had in fact passed away one year prior. But John’s hold on me took an interesting twist of fate after I found the love of my life.
I fell in love with my wife, Bonnie Hart, at first sight and six months later we were married and living in Los Angeles. Perhaps through kismet, destiny, or some other hand of fate, Bonnie would end up at a home in Topanga for a meeting. All around her were pictures of a director who she thought she had heard me mention before. And one picture in particular caught her attention, a photograph from the set of Kong. This was the house of Mary Guillermin, John’s lovely and brilliant widow.
A few short weeks later we would all have the pleasure of getting to know one another and becoming fast friends while screening John’s films at his and Mary’s home. When I had attempted to call John just a couple of years earlier, I had intended to thank him for inspiring an eight-year-old boy. A boy who, in 1976, fell in love with film-making largely due to the impassioned works of a filmmaker in whose house he now stood. And while I never had the opportunity to meet John in person, I do feel that by having crossed paths with Mary, I’ve finally had an opportunity to champion an outstanding visionary: an artist with heart, vision and soul that has forever changed my life and countless others through his cinematic legacy."
Excerpt - CHAPTER 14
BRETT A. HART
HOW JOHN GUILLERMIN INSPIRED & INFLUENCED ME
Billed as a book on ‘one of the best Hollywood directors nobody knows’, John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies is a fascinating look at the life and career of the director behind such films as The Towering Inferno, King Kong and The Death on the Nile. It’s a brilliant read, insightful, educational and passionate.
Movies In Focus is ashamed to say that I didn’t know who John Guillermin was – I knew his work, but like many (and to my shame) I didn’t know the man behind the movies. This book, edited by the late director’s wife, Mary Guillermin changed all that, offering-up a brilliant look at the life and career of the British/French director who was dubbed ‘The Wild Man’ by producer Dino De Laurentiis.
The book sees passages from Mary Guillerman sit alongside critical essays from academics, filmmakers and fans such as Neil Sinyard, Brett A. Hart, Brian Hoyle, Olaf Moller, Kate Lees, Vic Pratt, Ray Morton, Sarah Street and Melanie Williams. These all help to deliver a richly textured understanding of the director’s life and his wonderfully varied career.
The sheer scope of Guillerman’s filmography is astounding, from his early British ‘kitchen sink’ dramas to his big budget Hollywood blockbusters and everything else in between. He worked with some of the biggest stars of all-time including Charlton Heston, Sean Connery, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Fred Astaire, Jeff Bridges, George Peppard, George Segal, David Niven – the list is endless.
Excerpt - NIALL BROWNE