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Clarke, Frank (1915-2002)


Main image of Clarke, Frank (1915-2002)

School friend Ralph Kemplen secured Frank Clarke his first job as an assistant on Gaumont-British's First a Girl (d. Victor Saville, 1935), edited by Al Barnes. Clarke followed Kemplen to Twickenham Studios, then briefly freelanced before being called up at the outbreak of the Second World War.

He worked for several years at the Army Film Unit, editing training films and working on the famous documentaries Desert Victory (d. Roy Boulting, 1943) and The True Glory (d. Carol Reed, Garson Kanin, 1945). Clarke's relationship to the directors and producers of these compilation films was one where "you did a lot of the searching and getting the backbone of the thing together, then they came in on it". This experience convinced him of the greater scope for creativity editors could sometimes exercise on documentaries.

After editing films directed by Gilbert Gunn and Herbert Wilcox in the immediate post-war period Clarke was invited by former AFU producer Hugh Stewart to join MGM-British as a supervising editor. There, over the course of nearly twenty years, he worked with major Hollywood directors including John Ford and George Cukor, as well as British directors such as Anthony Asquith. Directors Clarke rated highly as efficient craftsmen included Asquith and Guy Green.

His experience of working with acclaimed Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni on his first English-language film Blow-Up (1966) was less happy. Clarke was used to the more traditional British working method of being left alone to assemble his own first cut of a film before discussing changes with the director. Antonioni was present throughout the entire editing process and, in Clarke's view, "interfering all the time" and "controlling too much as far as I was concerned". These difficulties were compounded by the fact that Blow-Up was quite different from the more conventional MGM-British productions Clarke had previously worked on. He refused a credit on the film.

Later, after the MGM-British Borehamwood Studio closed down at the end of the 1960s, Clarke rounded out his career by teaching at the London Film School.

Roy Perkins/Martin Stollery, British Film Editors: The Heart of the Movie (BFI Publishing, 2004)

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