Basil Dearden
Basil Clive Dear

(1911-01-01)1 January 1911
Died23 March 1971(1971-03-23) (aged 60)
Hillingdon, London, England
OccupationFilm director
Years active1938–1970
Spouse(s)Margaret Ward (divorced)
Melissa Stribling
ChildrenJames Dearden, Torquil Dearden

Basil Dearden (born Basil Clive Dear;[1] 1 January 1911 – 23 March 1971) was an English film director.[2]

Early life and career

Dearden was born at 5, Woodfield Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex to Charles James Dear, a steel manufacturer, and his wife, Florence née Tripp.[3]

Basil Dean

Dearden graduated from theatre direction to film, working as an assistant to Basil Dean. He later changed his own name to Dearden to avoid confusion with his mentor.

He wrote This Man Is News (1938), a hugely popular quota quickie[4] and wrote and directed a film for TV Under Suspicion (1939).

He was assistant director on Penny Paradise (1938), produced by Dean and directed by Carol Reed, and two George Formby comedies directed by Anthony Kimmins: George Takes the Air (1938), produced by Dean, and Come on George! (1939).

Dearden was promoted to associate producer on two more George Formby films, which he also co-wrote: To Hell with Hitler (1940) aka Let George Do It and Spare a Copper (1940).

Dearden went over to Ealing Studios where he produced The Ghost of St. Michael's (1941) with Will Hay, then he produced Turned Out Nice Again (1941) with George Formby.


Ealing Studios

He first began working as a director at Ealing Studios, co-directing comedy films with Will Hay, starting with Black Sheep of Whitehall (1942). This was followed by The Goose Steps Out (1942) and My Learned Friend (1943), which was Hay's last movie.

Dearden's first solo director credit was The Bells Go Down (1943), a wartime movie with Tommy Trinder. It was produced by Michael Relph who would form a notable collaboration with Dearden.

Dearden also directed The Halfway House (1944), a drama set in wales, and wrote and directed They Came to a City (1944), based on a play by J.B Priestley.

Dearden worked on the influential chiller compendium Dead of Night (1945) and directed the linking narrative and the "Hearse Driver" segment.

He also directed The Captive Heart (1946) starring Michael Redgrave, which was a big hit. The film was entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival. He directed Frieda (1947) with Mai Zetterling and produced by Relph, which was also popular.

Dearden directed Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948) an expensive costume picture that was not a large success.[5] He wrote and directed a segment of Train of Events (1949).

The Blue Lamp (1950), probably the most frequently shown of Dearden's Ealing films, is a police drama which first introduced audiences to PC George Dixon, later resurrected for the long-running Dixon of Dock Green television series. It was hugely popular.[6]

Less so were Cage of Gold (1950), a drama with Jean Simmons; Pool of London (1951), a crime film with a black lead, very rare for the time; and I Believe in You (1952), a drama which he also wrote and produced.

Dearden made The Gentle Gunman (1952), an IRA thriller with Dirk Bogarde; The Square Ring (1953), a boxing film with Jack Warner; The Rainbow Jacket (1954), a horse racing drama; and Out of the Clouds (1955), set at an airport.

He did a war film which he also wrote, The Ship That Died of Shame (1955) then a comedy with Benny Hill, Who Done It? (1956).

Dearden did some uncredited directing on The Green Man (1956) then made an Ealing style comedy for British Lion The Smallest Show on Earth (1957).

For Rank he made Violent Playground (1958) with Stanley Baker. He did some uncredited directing on one of Ealing's last films, Nowhere to Go (1958). He also produced Davy (1958), with Harry Secombe, for Ealing.

Social Justice Movies

Dearden and Michael Relph made a series of films on subjects generally not tackled by British cinema in this era starting with Sapphire (1959), a thriller about race relations that proved popular.[7]

Dearden and Relph helped set up Allied Film Makers for whom they made The League of Gentlemen (1960), a cynical comedy that was very popular.[8]

Dearden directed episodes of The Four Just Men on TV and produced two films directed by Michael Relph: Mad Little Island (1958) and Desert Mice (1959).

For Allied, Dearden directed Man in the Moon (1960), a science fiction comedy with Kenneth More that lost money. The Secret Partner (1961) was a thriller for MGM starring Stewart Granger.

Dearden directed Victim (1961) with Dirk Bogarde for Allied; a thriller about homosexuality, it was a huge success.

However, his next few movies were not popular: All Night Long (1961), an adaptation of Othello; Life for Ruth (1962), for Allied, which dealt with religious objections to operations.; A Place to Go (1964), for Bryanston Films, a thriller not released for two years; and The Mind Benders (1963) a science fiction with Dirk Bogarde.

Later films

Dearden and Relph then made two films for release by United Artists: Woman of Straw (1964) starring Sean Connery; and Masquerade (1965) with Cliff Robertson. He was then hired to replace Lewis Gilbert as director of Khartoum (1966), with Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier.[9]

Two films were then made for release by Paramount: Only When I Larf (1968) and the Edwardian era black comedy The Assassination Bureau (1969), again with Michael Relph; it was the 25th film they had made together.[10]

His last film was The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970), which he wrote and directed, starring Roger Moore, made for EMI Films. With Moore, Dearden made three episodes of the television series The Persuaders!: Overture, Powerswitch and To the Death, Baby.

He had two sons, Torquil Dearden and the screenwriter and director James Dearden.[11]


Dearden died on 23 March 1971 at Hillingdon Hospital, London after being involved in a road accident on the M4 motorway near Heathrow Airport, in which he suffered multiple injuries.[12] His death was coincidentally foreshadowed in his final film, which opens with a sequence in which Roger Moore's character almost dies in a car accident after driving recklessly at high speed along the M4.


The film critic David Thomson does not hold Dearden in high regard. He writes: "Dearden's films are decent, empty and plodding and his association with Michael Relph is a fair representative of the British preference for bureaucratic cinema. It stands for the underlining of obvious meaning".[13]

More positively, for Brian McFarlane, the Australian writer on film: "Dearden's films offer, among other rewards, a fascinating barometer of public taste at its most nearly consensual over three decades".[14]

Regular Ealing cinematographer Douglas Slocombe enjoyed working with Dearden personally, describing him as the 'most competent' of the directors he worked with at Ealing.[15]


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1938 This Man Is News No Yes No
1940 Let George Do It! No Yes Associate
Spare a Copper No Yes Associate
1941 The Ghost of St. Michael's No No Associate
Turned Out Nice Again No Uncredited Associate
1942 The Black Sheep of Whitehall Yes No No Co-Directed with Will Hay
The Goose Steps Out Yes No No Co-Directed with Will Hay
1943 The Bells Go Down Yes No No
My Learned Friend Yes No No Co-Directed with Will Hay
1944 The Halfway House Yes No No
They Came to a City Yes Yes No
1945 Dead of Night Yes No No Co-Directed with Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton and Robert Hamer
Directed Segments: Hearse Driver and Linking Narrative
1946 The Captive Heart Yes No No Nominated - Palme d'Or
1947 Frieda Yes No No
1948 Saraband for Dead Lovers Yes No No
1949 Train of Events Yes Yes No Co-Directed with Sidney Cole and Charles Crichton
Directed Segments: The Prisoner-of-War and The Actor
1950 The Blue Lamp Yes No No Nominated - Golden Lion
Cage of Gold Yes No No
1951 Pool of London Yes No No
1952 I Believe in You Yes Yes Yes
The Gentle Gunman Yes No No
1953 The Square Ring Yes No Uncredited
1954 The Rainbow Jacket Yes No No Nominated - Golden Shell
1955 The Ship That Died of Shame Yes Yes Uncredited
Out of the Clouds Yes No No
1956 Who Done It? Yes No Uncredited
The Green Man Uncredited No No Robert Day credited as Sole Director
1957 The Smallest Show on Earth Yes No No
Rockets Galore! No No Yes
Davy No No Yes
1958 Violent Playground Yes No No
1959 Sapphire Yes No No BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film
Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Film
Nominated - New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director
Desert Mice No No Yes
1959-60 The Four Just Men Yes No No TV series: 13 Episodes
1960 The League of Gentlemen Yes No No
Man in the Moon Yes Uncredited No
1961 Victim Yes No Yes Nominated - Golden Lion
The Secret Partner Yes No No
1962 All Night Long Yes No Uncredited
Life for Ruth Yes No Yes
1963 A Place to Go Yes No No
The Mind Benders Yes No No
1964 Woman of Straw Yes No No
1965 Masquerade Yes No No
1966 Khartoum Yes No No
1968 Only When I Larf Yes No No
1969 The Assassination Bureau Yes No No
1970 The Man Who Haunted Himself Yes Yes No
1971 The Persuaders! Yes No No TV series: 3 Episodes


  1. ^ "Basil Dearden". BFI. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  2. ^ "Only When I Larf". Variety. 31 December 1967. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  3. ^ Class: RG14; Piece: 10121; Schedule Number: 79, Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. The National Archives of the UK.
  4. ^ Matthew Sweet (2 January 2007). "Fancy a quickie?". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Britain To Double Film Production". The Advertiser (Adelaide). Vol. 89, no. 27526. South Australia. 26 December 1946. p. 4. Retrieved 2 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "Critics Praise Drama: Comedians Win Profits". The Sydney Morning Herald. NSW. 29 December 1950. p. 3. Retrieved 7 January 2015. at Trove
  7. ^ Hill, William John (1985). CLASS, SEXUALITY AND THE*BRITISH CINEMA 1956-63 (PDF) (Thesis). University of York. p. 375.
  8. ^ Sally Dux, 'Allied Film Makers: Crime, Comedy and Social Concern', Journal of British Cinema and Television 2012 9:2, 198-213
  9. ^ Basil Dearden The Guardian (1959-2003); London (UK) [London (UK)]25 Mar 1971: 5.
  10. ^ The survival bureau. Malcolm, Derek. The Guardian 19 March 1969: 8.
  11. ^ British Film Director, Crash Victim: Basil Dearden. The Washington Post and Times-Herald (1959-1973); Washington, D.C. [Washington, D.C]25 Mar 1971: B7.
  12. ^ Burton, Alan; O'Sullivan, Tim (2009). The Cinema of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph. Edinburgh University Press Ltd. p. xvii. ISBN 978-0-7486-3289-3. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  13. ^ David Thomson The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, London: Little, Brown, 2002, p.213
  14. ^ Brian McFarlane (ed.) The Encyclopedia of British Film, 2003, London: Methuen/BFI, p.168
  15. ^ Alan Burton; Tim O'Sullivan (2009). The Cinema of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph. Edinburgh University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7486-3289-3.