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Gold, Jack (1930-)

Director, Producer, Writer

Main image of Gold, Jack (1930-)

Jack Gold was born in London on 28 June 1930. After completing a degree in law and economics at London University, he joined the BBC, where he worked as an editor on the Tonight news programme with the reporters Alan Whicker and Fyfe Robertson. The value of this experience was that it enabled him to work more quickly than was possible under the working agreements established with the film union. His humanistic concerns surfaced in his anti-foxhunting film for the BBC, Death in the Morning (1964), and his Marxist perspective was evident in his direction of Jim Allen's TV play The Lump (1967), which harshly criticised the building industry.

Gold's film career began with The Bofors Gun (1968), scripted by John McGrath and dealing with the conflict between a young officer (David Warner) and an embittered and unstable private (Nicol Williamson) in a peacetime Army unit. His second film, The Reckoning (1969), also featured Williamson in a rather similar role, a violent anti-hero, this time wreaking havoc in the boardroom.

His films of the 1970s were generally well received, particularly The National Health (1973), set in a men's terminal ward and faithfully reproducing the comedy and criticism of Peter Nichols' play. Also of interest were Man Friday (1975), wherein Peter O'Toole and Richard Roundtree acted out a variation on the Robinson Crusoe story that subverted the colonialist theme of the original; and Aces High (1976), an aerial version of R.C. Sherriff's classic anti-war play of 1929, Journey's End.

At this stage, Gold was commonly considered a competent but cautious cinéaste, perhaps a little too reverential towards his scripts. However, he then defied expectations with his most stylistically exuberant work for the cinema, The Medusa Touch (UK/France, 1978), a horror-thriller with an unnerving vision of social apocalypse, in which Richard Burton (finely supported by Lino Ventura and Lee Remick) gave one of his most riveting performances as an intellectual anarchist with the telekinetic power to cause disasters.

During the 1970s, Gold alternated freely between film and television, but since that time, apart from a genial comedy about moving house, The Chain (1984), it is the small screen that has claimed him. He has proved a self-effacing but sensitive director, much admired by actors for his attention to the inner motives of his characters and his concern for the truth of a situation. If his films have never quite reached the level of his finest work for television, it should be said that his television work has sometimes been quite exceptional, such as The Naked Civil Servant (1975), a poignant and funny portrait of Quentin Crisp, superbly acted by John Hurt, and Goodnight Mister Tom (1998), starring Gold regular John Thaw, an observation of a bruised but resilient childhood during wartime that on occasion achieves the sensitivity of a Truffaut.

Madden, Paul and Wilson, David, 'Getting in Close: An Interview with Jack Gold', Sight and Sound, Summer, 1974, pp.134-7
Whitaker, Sheila, 'Jack Gold', Framework, Winter, 1978/79, pp.38-42

Neil Sinyard, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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Selected credits

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An interracial marriage provokes disaster in Victorian England

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Short film about a woman's gradual realisation of her life's emptiness

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BBC TV Shakespeare version with Nicol Williamson and Jane Lapotaire

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Poignent drama about the anti-war campaign of poet Siegfried Sassoon

Thumbnail image of Naked Civil Servant, The (1975)Naked Civil Servant, The (1975)

John Hurt's breakthrough role as the flamboyantly gay Quentin Crisp

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