Paul Dickson acclaimed documentary film maker


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I was a hopeful young film-maker when I joined World Wide pictures and met Paul Dickson. He was dynamic, exuberant and enthusiastic, with a remarkable record as a documentary film director. I was embarking on an amateur film about the Second World War, so I was more interested in his experiences during the battle for Italy. He was a splendid raconteur and vividly conveyed the schizophrenic quality of modern warfare.

After the war he worked as assistant director for Paul Rotha on his cinemagazine Britain Can Make It. He wrote and directed the public information film Personal Hygiene and then joined World Wide Pictures. With Ted Willis he wrote and directed The Undefeated, about a glider pilot who overcomes the loss of his legs and his voice, with the pilot played by a disabled ex-serviceman. It won the British Film Academy Award in 1951 and was nominated for an Oscar.

Dickson's most acclaimed production was David, a drama-documentary of the life of a school caretaker, commissioned to represent Wales at the Festival of Britain. The historian David Berry called it "one of the best three or four films ever to come out of Wales".

He became dialogue director for Anatole Litvak, and I remember envying Litvak; imagine having such a man to send his actors before the lens, requiring merely a finishing touch of direction. And what fascinating actors he worked with – Vivien Leigh in The Deep Blue Sea, Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia (her comeback film won her an Oscar after her seven-year Hollywood embargo) and The Journey with Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner and Jason Robards. He also made some of the earliest commercials, which won him an invitation to work in the US before he returned to direct episodes of The Avengers, Department S and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

In 1980, Paul was appointed Head of Direction at the National Film and Television School at Beaconsfield. He found it enormously rewarding to pass on what he had learned during 35 years of film production.

Born 18 January 1920

Died 6 October 2011