Seth Holt

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Holt on the set of directorial debut Nowhere to Go (1958)

Seth Holt (1923, Palestine – 14 February 1971, London) was a British film director, producer and editor.[1] His films are characterized by their tense atmosphere and suspense, as well as their striking visual style. In the 1960s, Movie magazine championed Holt as one of the finest talents working in the British film industry, although his output was notably sparse.[2]


Early Life[edit]

Holt was educated at Blackheath School in London.[3] He originally trained as an actor, and spent a term at RADA in 1940 before acting in repertory in Liverpool and Bideford in Devon working with Paul Scofield at the latter venue.[4][5] His sister, Joan Holt, was married to film director Robert Hamer from the mid-1930a to the mid-1950s.[6]

At Ealing Studios[edit]

In 1942 he joined a documentary film company, Strand, as assistant editor. He worked at Ealing Studios from 1943, at the recommendation of Hamer.[5] He was an editing assistant on films such as Champagne Charlie (1944), The Return of the Vikings (1944), Dead of Night (1945), The Captive Heart (1946), Hue and Cry (1947), Frieda (1947), Scott of the Antarctic (1948), Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and Passport to Pimlico (1949).

Holt received his first credit as editor on The Spider and the Fly (1949), made for Mayflower Pictures by Robert Hamer.[7]

Promoted to editor at Ealing, he cut six films for the studio: Dance Hall (1950) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), directed by Charles Crichton, His Excellency (1952) for Hamer, Mandy (1952) for Alexander Mackendrick, The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) and The Love Lottery (1954) for Crichton.

In November 1954, Holt was promoted to producer at Ealing.[8] He worked on Touch and Go (1955), The Ladykillers (1955) with Mackendrick and The Man in the Sky (1957) for Crichton.[9]

Holt graduated to direction with Ealing's penultimate production, Nowhere to Go (1958), which he intended to be "the least Ealing film ever made", co-writing the script with Kenneth Tynan who had appointed as an Ealing script editor.[4][10][11]


After Ealing, Holt returned to editing on The Battle of the Sexes (1959) and wrote the script for a short film, Jessy (also 1959).[12] In the Spring 1959 issue of Sight & Sound, he indicated a wish to make Gratz based on a book by J.P. Donleavy but that he also just wanted to practice his craft.[13]

Holt was reportedly responsible for saving Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and The Entertainer (1960), his last editing credits.[4][14][15] Also in this period, he directed episodes of the Danger Man television series for its initial run which were broadcast in 1960 and 1961.

Hammer Films mainly[edit]

His second feature as director was Taste of Fear (US: Scream of Fear, 1961) for Hammer Films, a successful thriller written by Jimmy Sangster and produced by Michael Carreras.

It was followed by Station Six-Sahara (1962), a British-German film shot on location in Libya. British film critic Dilys Powell described it as "true cinema".[16][17] He did episodes of Espionage.[18]

Holt returned to Hammer to make The Nanny (1965), based on a script by Sangster and starring Bette Davis. It was a huge success and received strong reviews. Pauline Kael called Holt's direction "excellent".[19] Bette Davis, however, once called Holt "the most ruthless director I've ever worked with outside of William Wyler".[5]

Later Career[edit]

Holt was contracted to make Danger: Diabolik (1965) in Italy with Gilbert Roland.[20] However filming was abandoned after the producer saw the footage and Holt was fired. The film was later reactivated with another director, Mario Bava.[21] By the mid-1960s, he was involved in developing the script for what became if.....[22] Holt was initially to direct Crusaders, the project which became if...., but his health was in such crisis that he passed the project to Lindsay Anderson, who extensively reworked the script with David Sherwin.[23][better source needed]

Holt directed episodes of Court Martial then made a James Bond-style thriller Danger Route (1967). Holt was reportedly ill during filming.[24][25]

Holt started directing a film about Monsieur Lecoq with Julie Newmar and Zero Mostel but it too was abandoned.[26][27] He produced a documentary about whaling in the Azores, Barbed Water.[28]

In 1970 the National Film Theatre screened a season of his films.[28]


Hammer Films hired Holt to direct Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971). "I haven't been directing because I haven't been offered anything to direct," he said at the time. he said he had been developing scripts about the anarchist Bakunin as well as an adaptation of Lady Into a Fox.[28]

He died during the making of the film and producer Michael Carreras had to take over. His death is believed to have been alcohol related.[29][30]

TCM's Ben Mankiewicz says it received better reviews than Hammer's other Mummy movies, which suffered from "The curse of the Mummy Movie," and he gave credit to Holt for the improvement. "He took the wrappings off."[31][32]

In 1968, Holt served as executive producer on Adrian Walker's documentary Barbed Water, about the whalers of Faial in the Azores.[33]

According to one obituary his "unfulfilled career was an indictment of the British film industry".[34]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ "Seth Holt". BFI.
  2. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Holt, Seth (1924-1971) Biography".
  3. ^ British Crime Film.
  4. ^ a b c Gough-Yates, Kevin; Holt, Seth (November–December 1969). "Seth Holt". Screen. pp. 3–22. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Kemp, Philip (2003–14). "Holt, Seth (1924-1971) Biography". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 1 January 2019. Originally published in the Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors
  6. ^ Murphy, Robert (2003–14). "Hamer, Robert (1911-63)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 1 January 2019. Originally published in the Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors.
  7. ^ SPIDER AND THE FLY, The Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 16, Iss. 181, (Jan 1, 1949): 195.
  9. ^ Round the British Studios Nepean, Edith. Picture Show; London Vol. 65, Iss. 1689, (Aug 13, 1955): 11
  10. ^ "THE END". Barr, Charles (1977, 1993) Ealing Studios University of California Press p.178.
  11. ^ Nowhere to Go Houston, Penelope. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 28, Iss. 1, (Winter 1958): 38.
  12. ^ JESSY Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 27, Iss. 312, (Jan 1, 1960): 133.
  13. ^ A Free Hand Clayton, Jack; Donner, Clive; Hamer, Robert; Holt, Seth; Jackson, Pat; et al. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 28, Iss. 2, (Spring 1959): 60.
  14. ^ "BFI - Sight & Sound - Lost and found: Station Six Sahara".
  15. ^ The Manxman: The career of Nigel Kneale Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 56, Iss. 662, (Mar 1, 1989): 90.
  16. ^ "BFI - Sight & Sound - Lost and found: Station Six Sahara".
  17. ^ VIEW FROM A LOCAL VANTAGE POINT By A.H. WEILER. New York Times 29 Apr 1962: 125.
  18. ^ Holt, Seth Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 38, Iss. 444, (Jan 1, 1971): M.
  19. ^ Vogue's Notebook: Movies: The Nanny Kael, Pauline. Vogue; New York Vol. 146, Iss. 10, (Dec 1, 1965): 147.
  20. ^ Gene Kelly Gets Moscow Bid Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 8 Nov 1965: c20.
  21. ^ Seth Holt, Film Director Specializing in Thrillers, 47 New York Times 6 Feb 1971: 37.
  22. ^ The big if The Guardian (1959-2003); London (UK) [London (UK)] 8 April 1969: 6.
  23. ^ "Seth Holt".
  24. ^ Johnson Signs for 'People' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 18 Jan 1967: e12.
  25. ^ The Rabbi Rises: More About Movie Matters By A.H. WEILER. New York Times ]29 Jan 1967: 91.
  26. ^ Julie Newmar Signs Pact Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 6 Sep 1967: e11.
  27. ^ Seth Holt, 47, Film Director The Washington Post, Times Herald 16 Feb 1971: C4.
  28. ^ a b c Daddy of the mummyscene The Guardian (1959-2003); London (UK) [London (UK)]18 Jan 1971: 8.
  29. ^ All's Well That Ends: an interview with Chris Wicking Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 55, Iss. 658, (Nov 1, 1988): 322.
  30. ^ Swires, Steve (1992). "Fall of the House of Hammer". Fangoria. p. 55.
  31. ^ "Overview for Seth Holt". Turner Classic Movies.
  32. ^ "BFI - Sight & Sound - Lost and found: Station Six Sahara".
  33. ^ "Barbed Water (Adrian Walker 1968)".
  34. ^ Seth Holt French, Philip. The Observer (1901- 2003); London (UK) [London (UK)]21 Feb 1971: 21.

External links[edit]