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Puttnam, Lord David (1941-)


Main image of Puttnam, Lord David (1941-)

Though cast in a less extravagant mould than, say, Korda, Balcon or Rank, David Puttnam is the nearest thing to a mogul that British cinema has had in the last quarter of the 20th century.

The son of an Army Film Unit cameraman, he began as a photographers' agent (archetypal 1960s type, David Bailey, was a client), and in the 1970s he took on the producing and marketing of British films and had major successes with the musicals, That'll Be the Day (d. Claude Whatham, 1973) and Stardust (d. Michael Apted, 1974) and with Alan Parker's tough Midnight Express (1978).

He scored a huge hit with Chariots of Fire (d. Hugh Hudson, 1981) and his own company, Enigma Films, was a key contributor to some of the most critically acclaimed, if not always commercially successful films of the 1980s and 1990s.

His First Love series, for instance, included some attractive films, which gave a chance to young film-makers, but which were too parochial for international success.

In 1986 he took a position as head of Columbia Pictures - and resigned a year later, having failed to turn its fortunes around or stiffen the moral fibre of its movies, and he relocated to England. Goldcrest, with which his company had been associated, had collapsed.

He has had no successes in the 1990s comparable with those referred to, or with Local Hero (d. Bill Forsyth, 1983), The Killing Fields (d. Roland Joffé, 1984) or the prestigious if not very profitable The Mission (d. Joffé, 1986), though he remains a force to be reckoned with in British cinema. In 1999 he produced My Life So Far, directed by Chariots colleague, Hugh Hudson, but to much more muted effect.

Awarded the CBE in 1982 and a life peerage in 1997, he has recently concentrated his attentions more on politics.

Books: David Puttnam: The Story So Far by Andrew Yule (1988); The Undeclared War by David Puttnam (1994).

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Cinema

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Bugsy Malone (1976)Bugsy Malone (1976)

Alan Parker's delightfully original children's gangster musical

Thumbnail image of Chariots of Fire (1981)Chariots of Fire (1981)

Oscar-winning story of two British Olympic athletes

Thumbnail image of Local Hero (1983)Local Hero (1983)

Bill Forsyth's gentle comedy about a Texan oilman in Scotland

Thumbnail image of Stardust (1974)Stardust (1974)

Brutally cynical account of the price of fame

Thumbnail image of That'll Be The Day (1973)That'll Be The Day (1973)

David Essex is teen rebel Jim Maclaine in this 1950s rock'n'roll fable

Thumbnail image of P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang (1982)P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang (1982)

Jack Rosenthal's engaging tale of a cricket-obsessed schoolboy's first love

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Thumbnail image of Forsyth, Bill (1946-)Forsyth, Bill (1946-)

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Thumbnail image of Hudson, Hugh (1936-)Hudson, Hugh (1936-)

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Thumbnail image of Joffé, Roland (1945-)Joffé, Roland (1945-)

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Thumbnail image of Parker, Alan (1944-)Parker, Alan (1944-)

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Thumbnail image of GoldcrestGoldcrest

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