Director, writer, and producer David Lean grew up in a strict religious background in which movies were forbidden to become one of the world's most celebrated filmmakers. Beginning as a tea boy in the mid-'20s, he was lucky enough to move into editing just as sound films -- with their special requirements -- were coming on the scene. By the mid-'30s, he was regarded as one of the top in his field.
Lean turned down several chances to make low-budget films, and got his first directing opportunity (unofficially) on [[Feature~V30906~Major Barbara~majorbarbara]] (1941), one of the most celebrated movies of the early '40s. [[Performer~P86099~Noel Coward~noëlcoward]] hired Lean as his directorial collaborator on his war classic [[Feature~V24607~In Which We Serve~inwhichweserve]] (1943), and, after that, Lean's career was made. For the next 15 years, he became known throughout the world for his close, intimate, serious film dramas. Some ([[Feature~V113374~This Happy Breed~thishappybreed]] , [[Feature~V6065~Blithe Spirit~blithespirit]] , and [[Feature~V7121~Brief Encounter~briefencounter]] ) were based upon [[Performer~P86099~Coward~noëlcoward]]'s plays, which the author had given Lean virtual carte blanche to film. Others ranged from [[Performer~P308966~Charles Dickens~charlesdickens]] adaptations ([[Feature~V20656~Great Expectations~greatexpectations]], , [[Feature~V104656~Oliver Twist~olivertwist]] ) to stories about aviation ([[Feature~V85917~The Sound Barrier~breakingthesoundbarrier]] ). In 1957, in association with producer [[Performer~P112321~Sam Spiegel~samspiegel]], Lean moved out of England and into international production with his epic adaptation of [[Performer~P82584~Pierre Boulle~pierreboulle]]'s Japanese prisoner-of-war story The Bridge on the River Kwai, a superb drama starring [[Performer~P29203~Alec Guinness~alecguinness]], [[Performer~P31110~Jack Hawkins~jackhawkins]], and [[Performer~P32805~William Holden~williamholden]] that expanded the dimensions of serious filmmaking.
Lean's next film, [[Feature~V28608~Lawrence of Arabia~lawrenceofarabia]] (1962), based on the life and military career of World War I British hero [[Performer~P317694~T.E. Lawrence~telawrence]], became the definitive dramatic film epic of its generation. [[Feature~V14162~Doctor Zhivago~doctorzhivago]] (1965), a complex romance about life in Russia before and during the revolution, opened to mixed reviews but went on to become one of the top-grossing movies of the '60s, despite a three-hour running time. With an armload of Oscars behind him from his three most recent pictures -- with combined box-office earnings of as much as 300 million dollars -- Lean was established as one of the top "money" directors of the decade. But his next movie, the multimillion-dollar, 200-minute [[Feature~V42420~Ryan's Daughter~ryansdaughter]] (1970), fared far less well, especially before the critics, who almost universally condemned the slowness and seeming self-indulgence of its drama and scale. Disheartened by its reception, Lean took more than ten years to release his next film, the critical and box-office success [[Feature~V37349~A Passage to India~apassagetoindia]] (1984). He was working on [[Feature~V269578~Nostromo~nostromo]], based upon [[Performer~P316773~Joseph Conrad~josephconrad]]'s book, at the time of his death in 1991. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi