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Kemplen, Ralph (1912-2004)

Editor, Director

Main image of Kemplen, Ralph (1912-2004)

Following a family tradition established by his bioscope showman father, Ralph Kemplen entered the industry in 1928 as assistant editor to Arthur Tavares at Gainsborough. He worked on Balaclava (d. Maurice Elvey, 1928) and later, under Ian Dalrymple's supervision, cut parts of The Ghost Train (d. Walter Forde, 1931) and Sunshine Susie (d. Victor Saville, 1931). In the latter part of the 1930s Kemplen worked with Jack Harris at Twickenham Studios and began to freelance.

During the Second World War he edited some training films for the Ministry of Information. In the 1950s he worked on a fairly regular basis for the Woolf brothers' Romulus and Remus production companies. Beginning with The African Queen (1951), Kemplen forged a creative partnership with John Huston, which they revived in the 1960s. He continued working on major productions throughout the 1970s. Kemplen directed one film, The Spaniard's Curse (1958).

Credits for Room at the Top (d. Jack Clayton, 1958) and A Man for All Seasons (d. Fred Zinnemann, 1966) consolidated Kemplen's reputation as a great dialogue editor. On the latter film Zinnemann invited Kemplen to contribute comments not only on the script but also on rehearsals. Other projects Kemplen had a considerable impact on included The Good Die Young (d. Lewis Gilbert, 1954). He recalled: "I did a reconstruction whereby the three or four stories which were originally separate were made to run concurrently". His various achievements include the dynamically yet classically edited opening sequence of Moulin Rouge (d. Huston, 1953), and two sequences in The Day of the Jackal (UK/France, d. Zinnemann, 1973) he was particularly proud of: "the sequence where the Jackal sets the sights on his gun, because of the economy of its cutting; the final section leading up to his death".

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

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Broken Blossoms (1936)Broken Blossoms (1936)

A Chinese immigrant finds love in the slums of London's East End

Thumbnail image of Ghoul, The (1933)Ghoul, The (1933)

Early sound chiller starring Boris Karloff

Thumbnail image of Good Die Young, The (1954)Good Die Young, The (1954)

Cynical heist thriller that was unusually bleak for the cosy mid-50s

Thumbnail image of Lazybones (1935)Lazybones (1935)

Minor Powell quickie with an interesting take on class

Thumbnail image of Man for All Seasons, A (1966)Man for All Seasons, A (1966)

Oscar-laden story of Sir Thomas More's defiance of Henry VIII

Thumbnail image of Oliver! (1968)Oliver! (1968)

Lionel Bart's Oscar-winning musical adaptation of Dickens' Oliver Twist

Thumbnail image of Room at the Top (1958)Room at the Top (1958)

The first 'kitchen sink' drama kick-started a British film revolution

Thumbnail image of Trottie True (1948)Trottie True (1948)

Lavish, Technicolor romance with Jean Kent as a rising music-hall star

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