British director Lewis Gilbert, the man behind the camera on over 40 films, has passed away just a couple of weeks shy of his 98th birthday according to THR. Gilbert was born March 6, 1920 in Hackney London. His parents were both music hall performers and Gilbert spent his childhood on the road with them while they toured, being hidden in the luggage racks of trains to save his parents buying him a ticket.
At the age of five Gilbert was tasked with driving a trick car on stage for one show, and audiences were so delighted that Gilbert and his car became the regular end of his parent's act. Only two years later, when Gilbert was seven, his father died from complications to tuberculosis and young Gilbert became a child actor to financially support his family. His formal education was disrupted, but his film education was just beginning, with roles in Dick Turpin and opposite Laurence Olivier in The Divorce of Lady X. Eventually Gilbert realized he was happier behind the camera and at the age of 19 he assisted Alfred Hitchcock on Jamaica Inn. During World War II Gilbert joined the Royal Air Force's film unit, and eventually moved to the First Motion Picture Unit of the American Air Force.
After the war, Gilbert continued writing and directing documentaries for awhile before making his first low-budget film, The Little Ballerina, in 1948. Over the next 17 years, he directed over 20 movies, many of which he also wrote. But it was not until 1966 that Gilbert directed one of the biggest films of his career - Alfie.
Based on the novel and play of the same name by Bill Naughton, Alfie starred Michael Caine as a womanizing chauffeur who eventually had to realize his non-committal and disrespectful behaviors had left him alone. The comedy was nominated for five Academy Awards - including Best Picture - and won the Grand Jury prize at the Cannes film festival and the Best English Language Foreign Film Golden Globe.
Gilbert followed Alfie with the first of three James Bond films he would direct, You Only Live Twice starring Sean Connery. Gilbert was originally not interested in the film, but was talked into directing by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli. In spite of his initial reluctance, Gilbert returned to the franchise 10 years later to direct Roger Moore's third and fourth outings as Agent 007 - The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
He was awarded the CBE in 1997 and became a Fellow of the British Film Institute in 2001. Gilbert's final film was the 2002 British comedy Before You Go. He passed away in his home in Monaco on February 23, leaving behind two sons and decades of extraordinary work in film
Rest in Peace Lewis Gilbert: March 6, 1920 - February 23, 2018