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Miles, Bernard (1907-1991)

Actor, Director

Main image of Miles, Bernard (1907-1991)

Bernard Miles sits uneasily among the knights and lords of his profession, in that he was notably down-to-earth, identified neither with the classical theatrical repertoire nor with grandiose directorial projects; he was honoured primarily for building, and then running, the new Mermaid Theatre, which opened in Blackfriars in 1959. The success of this venture owed much to goodwill earned by the quirkily likeable persona he had created over the years across a wide range of media, cinema included.

Two highlights in a long career of character roles are in David Lean films: his Petty Officer Hardy in In Which We Serve (1942) and his definitive Joe Gargery in Great Expectations (1946). To both, he brings a direct sincerity, a rich regional diction, and the ability to convey pain beneath a stoical exterior.

Though few of his roles have the same depth, these qualities were repeatedly and aptly used both by Michael Powell (e.g. One of Our Aircraft is Missing, 1942) and by the Boulting Brothers, for instance in the key 1940 short Dawn Guard, where he articulates the vision of a better postwar world, and later in Fame is the Spur (1947) and The Guinea Pig (1948, which he co-wrote). His heavy in the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (US, d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1956) was an effective casting against type.

Miles's two films as director are attractive fables of social harmony, the rural comedy Tawny Pipit (1944), and the factory-set Chance of a Lifetime (1950), which earned brief notoriety for its challenge to the conservative booking policies of the main circuits. It was typical of his modesty to give joint credit to his editors, Charles Saunders and Alan Osbiston respectively. He was married to actress Josephine Wilson.

Charles Barr, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Thumbnail image of ...One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942)...One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942)

Documentary-style WWII drama about an air crew stranded in Holland

Thumbnail image of Chance of a Lifetime (1950)Chance of a Lifetime (1950)

Fascinating industrial relations drama in which workers take over a factory

Thumbnail image of Common Touch, The (1941)Common Touch, The (1941)

A suddenly-orphaned 18-year-old finds himself in charge of a large business

Thumbnail image of Contraband (1940)Contraband (1940)

Atmospheric wartime Powell and Pressburger spy thriller

Thumbnail image of Convict 99 (1938)Convict 99 (1938)

Comedy with Will Hay mistaken for both prisoner and governor

Thumbnail image of First of the Few, The (1942)First of the Few, The (1942)

Moving wartime biopic of R.J. Mitchell, designer of the Spitfire

Thumbnail image of Goose Steps Out, The (1942)Goose Steps Out, The (1942)

WWII comedy with Will Hay dropped behind enemy lines

Thumbnail image of Great Expectations (1946)Great Expectations (1946)

David Lean's definitive Dickens adaptation

Thumbnail image of Heavens Above! (1963)Heavens Above! (1963)

Comedy of clerical misunderstanding starring an on-form Peter Sellers

Thumbnail image of In Which We Serve (1942)In Which We Serve (1942)

David Lean/Noël Coward classic about a bombed WWII destroyer

Thumbnail image of Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, The (1947)Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, The (1947)

Cavalcanti's adaptation of Dickens' classic novel

Thumbnail image of Lion Has Wings, The (1939)Lion Has Wings, The (1939)

Patriotic drama made as propaganda for British air forces

Thumbnail image of Love Test, The (1934)Love Test, The (1934)

Once-lost Powell quota-quickie mxing romance and chemistry

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

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

Thumbnail image of New Lot, The (1943)New Lot, The (1943)

Propaganda short that became the model for The Way Ahead

Thumbnail image of Sapphire (1959)Sapphire (1959)

The murder of a black girl in London reveals widespread racial tension

Thumbnail image of Smallest Show on Earth, The (1957)Smallest Show on Earth, The (1957)

Nostalgic comedy about a couple who inherit a failing cinema

Thumbnail image of Spy in Black, The (1939)Spy in Black, The (1939)

The first Powell and Pressburger film: a striking WWI story

Thumbnail image of They Drive By Night (1939)They Drive By Night (1939)

Thriller in which a newly-released criminal tries to prove his innocence

Thumbnail image of Vision of William Blake, The (1958)Vision of William Blake, The (1958)

Short film illustrating Blake's spiritual journey via his books and pictures

Thumbnail image of War Front (1941)War Front (1941)

How a magazine story about the war is put together

Thumbnail image of Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1980)Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1980)

Starry mystery that launched a spate of 1980s Agatha Christie adaptations

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