Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Varnel, Max (1925-1996)

Director, Producer, Writer

Main image of Varnel, Max (1925-1996)

Born Max Le Bozec in Paris on 21 March 1925, Max Varnel was the son of Marcel Varnel, the Frenchman who directed some of the funniest and most quintessentially English comedies of the 1930s. He entered film in the late 1940s, as assistant director on such films as Dear Mr Prohack (d. Lawrence Huntington, 1949) and, in the '50s, on several Warwick Productions genre pieces, such as The Cockleshell Heroes (d. José Ferrer, 1955), and was second unit director on Interpol (d. John Gilling, 1957).

When he began to direct his own films, they were obdurately second features, mostly for the Danziger brothers and mostly blandly forgettable. However, once or twice his regular screenwriter Brian Clemens turned out a meatier-than-usual screenplay, giving his actors something to get their teeth into. One such was A Woman Possessed (1958), in which Margaretta Scott's fine performance, as a rich, too-dominant mother who interferes with her son's marriage, made the situation seem newer than it was. And Return of a Stranger (1962), in which a psychopath returns to kill the husband of a girl he once assaulted, had occasional frissons and the benefit of a solidly convincing American lead, John Ireland. However, it would have taken more flair and originality than Varnel, Clemens or his mostly second-string actors could muster to make silk purses in the Danzigers' bargain-basement facilities.

He moved into television in the '60s, continuing his career in Australia until the '80s, when he directed episodes of long-running soap, Neighbours. He died from a heart attack in Sydney in January 1996.

Gray, Darren, 'Obituary', Stage 8 Feb. 1996, p. 31

Brian McFarlane, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Magic Box, The (1951)Magic Box, The (1951)

Star-studded biopic of British film pioneer William Friese-Greene

Related collections

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Danzigers, TheDanzigers, The

Producers, Executives

Thumbnail image of Varnel, Marcel (1892-1947)Varnel, Marcel (1892-1947)