The 25th anniversary of the death of Sir David Lean – one of Britain’s greatest film directors – was commemorated on Saturday with the David Lean Cinema in the Croydon Clocktower a fitting venue.
David Lean was born in South Croydon in 1908 and spent his early years there, viewing his first movies in the cinemas in and around Surrey Street, before going on to start work in the film industry.
Lean became known for epics such as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, but two of the earlier films that made him renowned internationally were the Dickens adaptations Great Expectations (made in 1946) and Oliver Twist (1948).
Saturday’s celebration of Lean’s life began with an introduction by film historian and filmmaker Kevin Brownlow, the author of David Lean: A Biography, the definitive account of Lean’s life and career.
The David Lean Cinema Campaign had earlier invited Brownlow to select a favourite film, and he chose Oliver Twist, saying “It’s a superb film – the best of all the Dickens films I’ve seen.”
Brownlow revealed that his mother responded on his behalf to a cinema advertisement inviting boys to audition for the role of Oliver, but unfortunately he was not one of 1,500 called to do so. Despite this disappointment, he enjoyed many hours in Lean’s company in the 1980s: “It was a pleasurable experience to work with him on the book – he was very impressive to meet, very charming.”
A 35mm print of a 2006 restoration of Oliver Twist, which was funded by the David Lean Foundation, was screened.
“We’re very grateful to Kevin as his insight into the making of the film greatly enhanced the occasion,” Adrian Winchester, the chairman of the Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign, said. “We take our connection with David Lean and his legacy very seriously, and I’m delighted that we were able to mark this important anniversary in such a memorable way.”
The David Lean Cinema is an intimate, 68-seat venue within Croydon Clocktower, which from 1995 became associated with the best in British and world cinema. It closed in April 2011 as a result of Croydon’s Tory-run council’s austerity cuts. But since March 2014, with the Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign – which is now a Community Interest Company – has presented an expanding programme of screenings.
It’s the only cinema in the Croydon area equipped to show films on 35mm.
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