Obituary: Guy Brenton
Friday 05 August 1994
GUY BRENTON was a leading figure in the cultural life of Oxford University in the late Forties and early Fifties. Distinguished as an actor, producer and film director, he made The Jason Strip (1953) and, with Lindsay Anderson, Thursday's Children (1954), a film about the deaf which the two co-wrote and co-directed and which won them an Oscar for Best Documentary.
Brenton was a scholar at Westminster School during the war years when it was evacuated to Whitbourne, on the Worcester- Hereford borders. There his originality, irascibility and intelligent responsiveness to ideas and programmes - new and old - in the fields of literature, religion and anthropology set him apart from the smooth pseudo-intellectualism which was at the time a hallmark of College at Westminster. He gained an exhibition to Christ Church, Oxford, and thus postponement of National Service. There his talents as entrepreneur, already developed in a number of Shakespeare and Shaw productions at Whitbourne village hall and a disused cinema in nearby Bromyard, quickly became apparent. He was a leading light in the Experimental Theatre Club, along with Kenneth Tynan. He produced a fine Winter's Tale for Nevill Coghill in Exeter College garden, and Oedipus Coloneus to celebrate Christ Church's quatercentenary.
Then he developed tuberculosis, which put him out of circulation for a year, and when he returned to Oxford he found a new generation had taken over. He moved to London and set up his own film company. But his vigorous standards together with lack of resources and financial acumen made the productions of high- quality films a hazardous affair.
Brenton later travelled widely in the Pacific area and for a year worked with Gregory Bateson in the adjacent cultural fields of religion and anthropology. He never lost his enthusiasm for ideas and activities which sought to explain (to use a degraded phrase) the meaning of life and went so far as to publish a book on this - coupling his own sufferings with those of humanity generally - entitled The Uses of Adversity (1973), under the pseudonym of Daniel Tallis. It sank without trace.
In later years he became closely involved with the Society of Psychical Research and the parapsychological studies associated with Dr Martin Israel. He would have liked to have become a guru himself and had many requisite qualities, but his abrasive style - concealing strong and unexpected feelings of tenderness and benignity - made this impossible.
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