Memoir of 'hilarious' film director wins Saga prize

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The Independent Culture

A memoir of the larger-than-life Irish film director Brian Desmond Hurst has won the £20,000 Saga Award for Wit, which is designed to honour humour in the over-50s.

A memoir of the larger-than-life Irish film director Brian Desmond Hurst has won the £20,000 Saga Award for Wit, which is designed to honour humour in the over-50s.

The Empress of Ireland, by Christopher Robbins, beat a short-list including the Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes, the playwright Simon Gray and The Independent's assistant editor and columnist John Walsh. Announcing the winner at the Folkestone Literary Festival yesterday, Emma Soames, chair of the judges, said: "Christopher Robbins' marvellous memoir of a long friendship with an eccentric and hilariously funny film director ... fulfilled all the criteria that we are looking for. It is a cavalcade of funny anecdotes."

Hurst, whose films included Scrooge and The Malta Story, was a friend of Noel Coward, launched the careers of Roger Moore and Vanessa Redgrave and was an inveterate pursuer of guardsmen.

Robbins, who lives in London and south-west France, met him 30 years ago when Hurst hired him to write a screenplay.

"Robbins brings to life a succession of wildly vivid characters in a series of global settings and draws an unforgettable portrait of a long-standing friendship with a man who had a huge appetite for a witty anecdote and a voracious love of the ribald," Ms Soames said.

The award was set up by the magazine of the same name for the over-50s last year, when the inaugural winner was Alexander McCall Smith.

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