Walter Summers

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Walter Summers
Born 2 September 1892
Barnstaple, Devon, United Kingdom
Died April 1973
Wandsworth, London, United Kingdom
Years active 1922-1940

Walter Summers (1892[1]–1973) was a British film director and screenwriter.[2]

Biography[edit]

Born in Barnstaple to a family of actors, British motion picture director Walter Summers began his career in the family trade; his first contact with filmmaking was as an assistant to American director George Loane Tucker, who worked for the English London Films unit from 1914 to 1916. With the outbreak of war, Summers mobilized into the British Army, gaining experiences that would serve him well later as a filmmaker. At war’s end, Summers worked briefly for Cecil Hepworth, and then the Territorial Unit in India before making contact with producer/director George B. Samuelson. Samuelson hired Summers as a writer, primarily on films starring the popular actress Lillian Hall-Davis such as Maisie’s Marriage (1923). Summers co-directed a couple of pictures with Samuelson before flying solo for the first time with a comedy, A Couple of Down and Outs (1923). Tiring of Samuelson’s on again, off again production schedule, Summers left and worked on a couple of features for even smaller concerns before landing at British Instructional Films, or BIF. There he directed historical battle recreations that within Britain are regarded as his greatest and most consequential films: Ypres (1925), Mons (1926), Nelson (1926), The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands (1927) and Bolibar (1928). The Battles of the Coronel and the Falkland Islands was so popular that it was reissued in a sound version under the title The Deeds Men Do (1932), and while the tone of these films (save Bolibar) are heavily patriotic they continue to hold up well.

In 1929, BIF reorganized as British International Pictures or BIP. Summers went into the era of the talkies continuing his string of successes, including Chamber of Horrors (1929, the last British silent), Lost Patrol (1929, later remade by John Ford), Raise the Roof (1930, starring Betty Blythe and regarded as the first British movie musical), The Flame of Love (1930) starring Anna May Wong and Suspense (1930), an outstanding psychological thriller set in the trenches of World War I. In time, however, BIP began to persuade Summers towards more workaday, banal material in keeping with their usual product stream. Presented with much the same option, Summers’ colleague Alfred Hitchcock simply walked out and went to British Gaumont, but Summers decided to stay. As reward for his loyalty, BIP brought along a number of projects that were neither suitable to nor worthy of Summers’ talents. Burned out, he left BIP in 1936 and worked for a time with a small, formerly BIP-owned unit, Welwyn Studios. When BIP reorganized again as Associated British, Summers seemed to gain a second wind in making his last films, which number among his best – Premiere (1938), Traitor Spy (1938), At the Villa Rose (1939) and the film for which he is best known outside of England, Dark Eyes of London (1939) with Bela Lugosi. Although all were Associated British productions, the last three titles were filmed at Welwyn.

When World War II broke out, Summers enlisted again. After the war he dutifully returned to work at Associated British, but made no more films. Summers seems to have lost interest in making motion pictures and merely drifted away from the industry, dying forgotten decades later at the age of 77. While the majority of Walter Summers’ considerable output remains obscure, his cycle of silent war films and such titles as Suspense and Dark Eyes of London attest to his extraordinary talents.

Selected filmography[edit]

Director

Writer

References[edit]

  1. ^ Birth certificate: http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/joys-archival-discovery-battles-of-coronel-falkland-islands
  2. ^ http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/individual/388

Walter Summers at the Internet Movie Database