Filmmakers Sir David Lean, CBE and Richard Bolt at the San Francisco Film Festival, 1970

This week on From the Vault, we celebrate the art of cinema with a trip back to 1970 for a visit with one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century, Sir David Lean, CBE.

Lean, born March 25, 1908 in Croydon, England, began his formal life in film as an editor on the 1934 picture Freedom of the Seas. After editing nearly thirty films, he found a new calling as a director in a series of collaborations with author Noel Coward: In Which We Serve (1942), This Happy Breed (1944), Blithe Spirit (1945), and Brief Encounter (1945). Following those he ventured into the classic British narratives of Charles Dickens with Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948) – both efforts remain universally considered the definitive film versions these classic works. The 1955 film Summertime, starring Katharine Hepburn on location in Venice, Italy – and shot in full Technicolor – led to a string of his most well-known and award-winning films: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Ryan’s Daughter (1970), and A Passage to India (1984).

On October 28, 1970, the San Francisco Film Festival welcomed Lean for the first West Coast screening of his newly restored Oliver Twist (originally released in 1949). Lean is joined on stage in front of a live audience by collaborating screenwriter Robert Bolt (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Ryan’s Daughter) and moderator Albert Johnson for a conversation on the art of making films and the goals of the San Francisco Film Festival.

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