David Lean Sir David Lean, KBE (March 25, 1908 - April 16, 1991) was a British film director, best remembered for big-screen epics such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai and Doctor Zhivago . He was voted 9th best director of all time in the BFI "Directors Top Directors" poll 2002.
He was born in Croydon, Surrey to Francis William le Blount Lean and the former Helena Tangye. His parents were Quakers and he was a pupil at the Quaker-founded Leighton Park School in Reading.
Lean started at the bottom, as a clapperboard assistant. By 1930 he was working as an editor on newsreels, including Gaumont Pictures and Movietone. His career in feature films began with Escape Me Never in 1935.
He went on to edit Gabriel Pascal's film productions of two George Bernard Shaw plays, Pygmalion (1938) and Major Barbara (1941), and Powell & Pressburger's Forty-Ninth Parallel (1941) and One of our Aircraft is Missing (1942).
His first work as a director was in partnership with Noel Coward on In Which We Serve (1942), and he went on to adapt several of Coward's plays into successful films. These included This Happy Breed (1944), Blithe Spirit (1945) and Brief Encounter (1945). These were followed by two celebrated Charles Dickens adaptations of Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), as well as The Sound Barrier (1952) a collaboration with the playwright Terence Rattigan, and Hobson's Choice (1954) a stylish comic update of King Lear set in Victorian Manchester, and based on the play by Harold Brighouse.
Summertime (1955), marked a new direction in for Lean. Filmed in colour, it was shot entirely on location in Venice. U.S.-financed, the film starred Katharine Hepburn as a middle-aged American woman who has a romance while on holiday in Venice.
In the following years, Lean went on to make the blockbusters for which he is best known: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), for which he won an Academy Award, followed by another for Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Doctor Zhivago (1965) was another major hit, but after the moderately successful Ryan's Daughter in 1970, he did not direct another film until A Passage to India (1984), which would be his last. He was knighted in 1984.
He was in the midst of planning an epic production of Joseph Conrad's Nostromo when he died from cancer, aged 83. Marlon Brando, Paul Scofield and Dennis Quaid were set to star in the film before Lean's death. The director was Quaid's favorite of all time.
Nostromo would eventually be made as a BBC mini-series.
Lean was married six times, and divorced five - his last wife survived him:
Isabel Lean (1930 - 1936) (David's first cousin) - one son Peter Kay Walsh (1940 - 1949) Ann Todd (1949 - 1957) Leila Matkar (1960 - 1978) Sandra Hotz (1981 - 1984) Sandra Cooke (1990 - 1991)