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Bond, Jack (1937-)

Director, Producer, Writer, Actor

Main image of Bond, Jack (1937-)

Feted by Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol and described as "the most irresponsible man on God's earth" after a bear and assorted mental patients escaped from the set of The Other Side of the Underneath (d. Jane Arden, 1972), Jack Bond has had a distinctly colourful career. It offers many parallels with that of Ken Russell, not least because Bond's wildly imaginative feature films grew out of a background in television arts documentaries.

After a stint as an ITV transmission controller, Bond enrolled with the BBC in 1962 as a trainee producer/director, but was fired for inventing outraged viewers' letters in an attempt to liven up Points of View (BBC, 1961-). However, programme controller Huw Wheldon (who had previously talent-spotted Russell and John Schlesinger) relented and commissioned The Pity of War (tx. 4/8/1964), a documentary about World War I seen through the eyes of Wilfrid Owen's poetry. Broadcast on the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the war, its reception secured Bond a job on Melvyn Bragg's arts magazine programme New Release (BBC, 1965-67), for which he made documentaries on, among others, Eduardo Paolozzi, Joan Littlewood, George Orwell and Salvador Dalí ('Dalí in New York', tx. 1966). The latter project introduced him to Jane Arden, who he took to interview Dalí in New York. Arden and Bond became lovers and long-term creative collaborators, starting with the experimental BBC drama Exit 19 (tx. 8/8/1966), written and directed by Arden's husband Philip Saville, in which Bond played the lead as a film editor and Arden a supporting role.

Bond then secured financing for his debut feature film Separation (1967), written by and starring Arden. A genuinely independent production, festival acclaim was not followed with commercial success. Bond then produced and directed Arden's feminist multimedia extravaganza Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven (1969) for the stage. He then produced its successor, A New Communion for Freaks, Prophets and Witches (1971), initially on stage and then as Arden's solo film directorial debut, The Other Side of the Underneath (1972), which Bond insisted she shoot on 16mm once he realised that her plans to film extended therapy sessions would jeopardise the budget. To recover from the arduous filming, Bond and Arden went to Morocco for several months, where they shot the Super 8 footage that formed the basis of Vibration (1975), their first video experiment. They then co-directed the feature film Anti-Clock (1979) which became a cult cause célèbre in the US after being championed by Newsweek magazine, but a series of low financial offers from distributors led Bond to veto its release in Britain: until the 2009 revival it was publicly shown just twice in the UK. After Anti-Clock, Bond returned to the US where he worked as a Hollywood script doctor.

After three years living a self-described playboy existence (including sailing his boat, Moonsaga), Bond was reunited with his former boss, Melvyn Bragg, and was hired to shoot a semi-dramatised South Bank Show (ITV, 1978-2010) portrait of the suspense novelist Patricia Highsmith. He would spend the next two decades shooting numerous South Bank Shows, directing Pet Shop Boys pop promos, and devising the same music duo's memorably weird cult feature film, It Couldn't Happen Here (1987).

During the 1990s and early 2000s he continued to direct his own brand of idiosyncratic documentary portraits (of such literary giants as Genet and Camus) for The South Bank Show. In 2009, he produced and directed an intimate portrait of the Paris-based English actress Charlotte Rampling, Waiting for Charlotte. Then, in 2010, he made A Tale of Two Cities, a playful documentary which revisits Dalí in New York and explores the influence of the great Surrealist on his own filmmaking practice.

2012 saw the completion of The Blue Black Hussar, a feature-length documentary which charts the return to the international concert circuit of 1980s pop sensation Adam Ant. Independently financed, the film features guest appearances by Charlotte Rampling, music producer Mark Ronson and Pop artist Allen Jones, as well as candid footage of its subject reflecting on a life in the public eye.

Michael Brooke

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Thumbnail image of Arden, Jane (1927-82)Arden, Jane (1927-82)

Writer, Director, Actor