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Young, Terence (1915-1994)

Director, Producer, Writer

Main image of Young, Terence (1915-1994)

Shaun Terence Young's long career in British cinema encompassed a variety of genres and international co-productions, but he is best remembered as the director of three of the first four James Bond films.

Born in Shanghai on 20 June 1915, Young began his film career as a scriptwriter in 1939 and wrote screenplays throughout the 1940s, ranging from the wartime melodrama Dangerous Moonlight (d. Brian Desmond Hurst, 1941) to The Bad Lord Byron (d. David Macdonald, 1949). He directed some of the action sequences in Dangerous Moonlight and might well have directed Henry V (d. Laurence Olivier, 1944) had he been able to gain release from his Guards regiment. Finally he made his directorial debut in 1948 with Corridor of Mirrors, a psychological drama starring Eric Portman as a rich recluse morbidly obsessed with the past. After two lighter films he drew on his wartime experiences for They Were not Divided (1950), which followed the careers of two Welsh Guardsmen fighting in the Ardennes; and The Red Beret (1953), celebrating the achievements of a British paratroop regiment, the first of several made for Irving Allen and Albert Broccoli's fledgling company Warwick Films, which specialised in making routine action adventures more marketable by importing American players. The Red Beret featured Alan Ladd; Victor Mature starred in Young's three other Warwick films - Safari (1956), Zarak (1956) and the POW story No Time to Die (1958).

Young's pre-Bond career spanned diverse popular genres, encompassing the musical comedy One Night with You (1948), the Cold War thriller Valley of Eagles (1951), period melodrama in That Lady (1955), and imperial adventure in Storm Over the Nile (1955). Among the more striking films from this period are the lurid Soho gangster thriller Too Hot Too Handle (1959), starring Jayne Mansfield, and Serious Charge (1959), which dealt interestingly with issues involving homosexuality and sexual repression.

The Bond films re-united Young with Broccoli, co-partner with Harry Saltzman in a new company, Eon Productions. In Dr. No Young enthusiastically took to the mix of violent action, easy sex and glamorous locations; though the tone for the series was more decisively set with the second Bond film, From Russia with Love (1963), where the action elements were undercut by Sean Connery's deadpan one-liners. After Guy Hamilton's Goldfinger (1964), he returned for Thunderball (1965), a huge box-office success now chiefly remembered for its impressive underwater sequences.

Young was involved in European co-productions as early as 1960 with the ballet film Black Tights (France/Portugal, 1960), and much of his post-Bond output consists of multi-lingual films, sometimes featuring American stars such as Charles Bronson. Except for the Hitchcockian Wait Until Dark (1967), genuinely frightening at times, his Hollywood assignments proved equally undistinguished genre entries, reaching a nadir with the disastrous Korean War film Inchon (1981). There is little of distinction either in his later British-based films, though The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965) has its moments of bawdy fun; and the frozen spectacle of Mayerling (France/UK, 1968) occasionally sparks into life. Young remained a chameleon working without a definable identity within the confines of mainstream commercial production and the uninspired quality of much of his output suggests a director who wasn't really trying; but after his lucrative encounters with Mr Bond perhaps he didn't need to. Terence Young died of a heart attack in Cannes on 7 September 1994.

Chapman, James, Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films (London: I.B.Tauris, 1999)
Lane, John Francis, 'Young Romantic', Films and Filming, Feb. 1967, pp. 58-60
Obituary, Classic Images n. 244, Oct. 1995, p. 59
Perry, George, The Great British Picture Show (London: Pavilion, 1985)
Walker, Alexander, Hollywood, England (London: Harrap, 1986)

Robert Shail, Directors in British and Irish Cinema

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Selected credits

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