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David Hemmings (1976)
|Born||David Edward Leslie Hemmings
18 November 1941
Guildford, Surrey, England
|Died||3 December 2003
|Alma mater||Glyn Grammar School|
|Occupation||Actor, director, producer, screenwriter, singer-songwriter (operatic boy soprano) and pop singer)|
|Years active||1954-2003, his death|
|Spouse(s)|| • Genista Ouvry (1st marriage)
• Gayle Hunnicutt (2nd marriage)
• Prudence J. de Casembroot (3rd marriage)
• Lucy Williams (4th marriage)
|Children|| • Deborah (with Ouvry)
• Nolan Hemmings (with Hunnicutt)
• George (with de Casembroot)
• Edward (with de Casembroot)
• Charlotte (with de Casembroot)
• William (with de Casembroot)
David Edward Leslie Hemmings (18 November 1941 – 3 December 2003) was an English film, theatre and television actor, as well as a film and television director and producer. He and his manager created the Hemdale Film Corporation in 1967.
He is noted for his role as the photographer in the drama mystery-thriller film Blowup (1966), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Early in his career, Hemmings was a boy soprano appearing in operatic roles. In his later acting career, he was known for his distinctive eyebrows and gravelly voice.
Early life and early performances
David Hemmings was born in Guildford, Surrey, to a biscuit salesman father. His education at Alleyn's School, Glyn Grammar School in Ewell and the Arts Educational School, led him to start his career performing as a boy soprano in several works by the composer Benjamin Britten, who formed a close friendship with him at this time. Most notably, Hemmings created the role of Miles in Britten's chamber opera Turn of the Screw (1954). His intimate, yet innocent, relationship with Britten is described in John Bridcut's book Britten's Children (2006). Although many commentators identified Britten's relationship with Hemmings as based on an infatuation, throughout his life, Hemmings maintained categorically that Britten's conduct with him was beyond reproach at all times. Hemmings had earlier played the title role in Britten's The Little Sweep (1952), which was part of Britten's Let's Make An Opera! children's production.
Britten's interest in Hemmings ceased very abruptly, from the moment his voice broke, which occurred unexpectedly while singing the aria "Malo" during a performance of The Turn of the Screw in 1956 in Paris. Britten was furious, waved Hemmings away, and never had any further contact with him.
Film and television work
Hemmings then moved on to acting and directing in film. He made his first film appearance in the drama film The Rainbow Jacket (1954), but he first became well known as a pin-up and film star in the mid-1960s.
Antonioni, who detested the "Method" way of acting, sought to find a fresh young face for the lead in his next production, Blowup. Then, he found Hemmings, at the time acting in small stage theatre in London, although at their first meeting, Antonioni told Hemmings, "you look wrong. You're too young". Hemmings was offered the part of the protagonist after actor Sean Connery turned the role down because Antonioni would not show him the full script, but only a seven-page treatment stored in a cigarette packet.
Following Blowup, Hemmings appeared in a string of major British films, including the musical film Camelot (1967), the war film The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), the science-fiction film Barbarella (1968) and in the title role, the epic film Alfred the Great (1969).
Around 1967, Hemmings was briefly considered for the role of Alex in a planned film version of Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), which was to be based on a screen treatment by satirist Terry Southern and British photographer Michael Cooper. Cooper and the Rolling Stones rock group were reportedly upset by the move and it was decided to return to the original plan in which Mick Jagger, the lead vocalist of the Rolling Stones, would play Alex, with the rest of the Stones as his droog gang; the production was shelved after Britain's chief censor, the Lord Chamberlain, indicated that he would not permit it to be made.
Hemmings directed the drama film The 14 (1973), which won the Silver Bear at the 23rd Berlin International Film Festival. He appeared in the Italian giallo film Profondo Rosso (also known as Deep Red or The Hatchet Murders) (1975) directed by Dario Argento. In 1977 he appeared as Eddy in the film Islands in the Stream, an adaptation of Hemingway's novel of the same name.
He directed David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich in the drama film Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo (also known as Just a Gigolo) (1978). The film was poorly received, with Bowie describing it as "my 32 Elvis Presley films rolled into one". Hemmings directed the horror film The Survivor (1981), based on James Herbert's 1976 novel of the same name, starring Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter.
Throughout the 1980s, he also worked extensively as a director on television programmes including the action-adventure drama series Quantum Leap (e.g., the series premiere); the crime series Magnum, P.I. (in which he also played characters in several episodes); and two action-adventure series The A-Team and Airwolf (in which he also played the role of Doctor Charles Henry Moffet, twisted creator of Airwolf, in the pilot and the second-season episode "Moffett's Ghost" – a typographical error by the studio's titles unit). He once joked, "People thought I was dead. But I wasn't. I was just directing The A-Team." He directed the thriller film Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981), which stars Ken Wahl, Lesley Ann Warren, Donald Pleasence and George Peppard.
Hemmings also directed the puzzle-contest video Money Hunt: The Mystery of the Missing Link (1984). He directed the television film The Key to Rebecca (1985), an adaptation of Ken Follett's 1980 novel of the same name. He also briefly served as a producer on the NBC crime-drama television series Stingray.
Hemmings played a vindictive cop in the docudrama film Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1980) about Arthur Allan Thomas (portrayed by John Hargreaves), a New Zealand farmer jailed for the murder of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe, but later pardoned. He directed the drama film Dark Horse (1992) and as an actor returned to the voyeuristic preoccupations of his Blowup character with a plum part as the Big Brother-esque villain in the season-three opener for the television horror anthology series Tales From the Crypt.
In later years, he had roles including appearing as Cassius in the historical epic film Gladiator (2000), with Russell Crowe, as well as appearing in the drama film Last Orders (2001) and the spy film Spy Game (2001). He appeared as Mr. Schermerhorn in the historical film Gangs of New York (2002), directed by Martin Scorsese.
His final screen appearances included the science-fiction action film, Equilibrium (2002), shortly before his death, as well the superhero film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), with Sean Connery and as Frank Sinatra's attorney in the 2003 Australian film The Night We Called It a Day, a comedy based on true events. He also appeared in the horror film Blessed (2004) with Heather Graham, which was dedicated to him in his memory after a fatal heart attack while on set.
In 1967, Hemmings recorded a pop single, "Back Street Mirror" (written by Gene Clark), and a studio album, David Hemmings Happens, in Los Angeles. The album featured instrumental backing by several members of the Byrds, and was produced by Byrds' mentor Jim Dickson.
In the 1970s, he was jointly credited with former Easybeats members Harry Vanda and George Young as a co-composer of the song "Pasadena". The original 1973 recording of this song – the first Australian hit for singer John Paul Young – was produced by Simon Napier-Bell, in whose SNB Records label Hemmings was a partner at the time.
Hemmings also later provided the narration for Rick Wakeman's progressive-rock album Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974) – an adaptation of Jules Verne's science-fiction novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) – which was recorded live.
After his death, his autobiography Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations – The Autobiography of David Hemmings was published in 2004.
He was married four times: to Genista Ouvry (1960–1967), actress Gayle Hunnicutt (1968–1975), Prudence de Casembroot (1976–1997), and Lucy Williams (2002 to his death). Hemmings met Hunnicutt while he was in America promoting Blowup, by which time his marriage to Ouvry was over. At their outdoor wedding, Henry Mancini conducted an orchestra and the Mamas and the Papas performed next to a swimming pool filled with doves dyed puce. Of his relationship with Hunnicutt, Hemmings remarked, "We were the poor man's Taylor and Burton". Their marriage ended when Hunnicutt discovered Hemmings' affairs with actress Samantha Eggar, his co-star in The Walking Stick (1970), and his secretary Prudence de Casembroot. During his subsequent marriage to Prudence de Casembroot, Hemmings continued his infidelities with, among others, Tessa Dahl, the daughter of Roald Dahl.
He was an active supporter of liberal causes, and spoke at a number of meetings on behalf of the Liberal Party.
He was survived by his wife Lucy; a daughter, Deborah, by his marriage to Ouvry; a son, Nolan Hemmings, by his marriage to Hunnicutt; and four children, George, Edward, Charlotte and William, by his marriage to Prudence de Casembroot.
Filmography and television work
- The Rainbow Jacket (1954)
- The Heart Within (1957)
- Five Clues to Fortune (1957)
- Saint Joan (1957)
- Men of Tomorrow (1959)
- No Trees in the Street (1959)
- In the Wake of a Stranger (1959)
- Sink the Bismarck! (1960)
- The Wind of Change (1961)
- Play It Cool (1962)
- The Painted Smile (1962)
- Some People (1962)
- Live It Up! (1963)
- Two Left Feet (1963)
- West 11 (1964)
- The System (1964)
- Be My Guest (1965)
- Blowup (1966)
- Eye of the Devil (1966)
- Camelot (1967)
- The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)
- The Long Day's Dying (1968)
- Barbarella (1968)
- Only When I Larf (1968)
- Alfred The Great (1969)
- The Best House in London (1969)
- Simon, Simon (1970)
- The Walking Stick (1970)
- Fragment of Fear (1970)
- Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971)
- The Love Machine (1971)
- Voices (1973)
- The 14 (1973; director)
- Lola (1974)
- Juggernaut (1974)
- Deep Red (1975)
- Mister Quilp (aka The Old Curiosity Shop; 1975)
- Squadra antitruffa (1977)
- Islands in the Stream (1977)
- The Prince and the Pauper (US title Crossed Swords) (1977)
- La via della droga (1977)
- The Disappearance (1977)
- The Squeeze (1977)
- Blood Relatives (1978)
- Power Play (1978)
- Just a Gigolo (1978)
- Murder by Decree (1979)
- Thirst (1979)
- Charlie Muffin (US title: A Deadly Game) (1979)
- Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1980)
- Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1980)
- Harlequin (1980)
- Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981)
- Prisoners (1981)
- Swan Lake (1981)
- Man, Woman and Child (1983)
- Airwolf (1984) (television film and two subsequent episodes)
- The Rainbow (1989)
- Northern Exposure (1992)
- Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1996)
- Gladiator (2000)
- Last Orders (2000)
- Mean Machine (2001)
- Spy Game (2001)
- Waking the Dead: "Deathwatch" (2002) (television episode in 2 parts)
- Equilibrium (2002)
- Gangs of New York (2002)
- Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice (2002) (direct-to-video)
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
- The Night We Called It a Day (2003) (a.k.a. All the Way)
- Blessed (2004)
- Romantik (2007)
- Hemmings, David (2004). Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations – The Autobiography of David Hemmings. Robson Books (London). ISBN 978-1-86105-789-1.
- List of British actors and actresses
- List of British film directors
- List of film producers
- List of singer-songwriters
- Erickson, Hal. "David Hemmings – About This Person". AllRovi (via The New York Times). Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- Your Face Here: British Cult Movies Since the Sixties, Alf Catterall and Simon Wells, Fourth Estate, 2002, pg 30
- John Bridcut, "The end of innocence", extract from Britten's Children, The Independent, 5 June 2006. Retrieved 30 March 2014
- Tomasulo, Frank P. (2004). "The Sounds of Silence: Modernist Acting in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up", in More Than a Method: Trends and Traditions in Contemporary Film Performance, edited by Cynthia Baron, Diane Carson and Frank P. Tomasulo. Detroit MI: Wayne State University Press. pp. 94–98. ISBN 978-0814330791.
- Pomerance, Murray (2011). Michelangelo Red Antonioni Blue: Eight Reflections on Cinema. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-0520266865.
- Bray, Christopher (2010). Sean Connery: The measure of a man. London: Faber & Faber. p. 128. ISBN 978-0571238088.
- Hill, Lee (2002). A Grand Guy – The Art and Life of Terry Southern. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-7475-5835-4.
- "Berlinale 1973: Prize Winners". Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- MacKinnon, Angus (13 September 1980). "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be". NME. pp. 32–37.
- "David Hemmings". The Telegraph. 5 Dec 2003. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- Staff (5 December 2003). "David Hemmings, 62, a Film Star in 'Blowup'". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- Pulleine, Tim (5 December 2003). "David Hemmings". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to David Hemmings.|
- David Hemmings at AllMovie
- David Hemmings at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- David Hemmings at Find a Grave
- David Hemmings at the Internet Movie Database
- David Hemmings at the TCM Movie Database
- Works by or about David Hemmings in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- A collection of pictures taken on the set of Blowup at the Wayback Machine (archived 5 April 2004)
- Pulleine, Tim (5 December 2005). "David Hemmings – Gifted Actor, Director and Producer Who Successfully Outgrew His Iconic '60s Image in Antonioni's Blow Up". The Guardian