1969: ‘The ever popular war game with songs battles & a few jokes’
Oh! What a Lovely War is a British musical film directed by Richard Attenborough (in his directorial debut), with an ensemble cast including Maggie Smith, Dirk Bogarde, John Gielgud, John Mills, Kenneth More, Laurence Olivier, Jack Hawkins, Corin Redgrave, Michael Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, Paul Shelley, Malcolm McFee, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Nanette Newman, Edward Fox, Susannah York, John Clements, Phyllis Calvert and Maurice Roëves.
The film is based on the stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War!, originated by Charles Chilton as a radio play, The Long Long Trail in December 1961, and transferred to stage by Gerry Raffles in partnership with Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop in 1963.
The title is derived from the music hall song Oh! It’s a Lovely War, which is one of the major numbers in the film.
The producers were the novelist Len Deighton, photographer Brian Duffy, and Richard Attenborough. The Deighton Duffy production company had produced the film adaptation of Deighton’s Only When I Larf starring Attenborough. Deighton wrote the screenplay for Oh! What a Lovely War and the opening title sequence was created by Len Deighton’s lifelong friend Raymond Hawkey, the designer responsible for many of Deighton’s book covers in the 1960s. In an attempt to shame other people who he thought were claiming credit for things they hadn’t actually done, Deighton decided not to be listed in the film credits, a gesture he later described as “stupid and infantile”.
At the time, the Beatles were also interested in making an anti-war film. At Bertrand Russell’s suggestion Paul McCartney met with the producer Deighton to discuss the opportunity of the band appearing although, in the end, it was not possible to arrange.
1987: ‘David is eight years late for dinner… and the U.S. Government wants to know why. But David has an excuse, an absolutely fantastic excuse!’
Flight of the Navigator is a 1986 American science fiction adventure film directed by Randal Kleiser and written by Mark H. Baker, Michael Burton and Matt MacManus. The film stars Joey Cramer as David Freeman, a 12-year-old boy who is abducted by an alien spaceship and finds himself caught in a world that has changed around him.
The film also stars Paul Reubens (credited as “Paul Mall”) as the voice of Max, Cliff DeYoung as Bill Freeman, Sarah Jessica Parker as Carolyn McAdams, and Howard Hesseman as Dr. Louis Faraday.
The film’s producers initially sent the project to Walt Disney Pictures in 1984, but the studio was unable to approve it and it was sent to Producers Sales Organization, which made a deal with Disney to distribute it in the United States. It was partially shot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Norway, it being a co-production with Norwegian company Viking Film.
See the trailer here.
1987: ‘You are invited to spend an hilarious weekend in the English countryside.’
Withnail and I is a British black comedy film written and directed by Bruce Robinson. Based on Robinson’s life in London in the late 1960s, the plot follows two unemployed young actors, Withnail and “I” (portrayed by Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann, who was initially fired for having a Liverpudlian accent) who live in a squalid flat in Camden Town in 1969 while squandering their finances on alcohol. Needing a holiday, they obtain the key to a country cottage in the Lake District belonging to Withnail’s lecherous gay uncle Monty and drive there. The weekend holiday proves less recuperative than they expected.
Withnail and I was Grant’s first film and launched him into a successful career. The film also featured performances by Richard Griffiths as Withnail’s Uncle Monty and Ralph Brown as Danny the drug dealer. The film has tragic and comic elements (particularly farce) and is notable for its period music and many quotable lines. It has been described as “one of Britain’s biggest cult films”.
Watch the trailer here.
1992: ‘What if Peter Pan grew up?’
Hook is a 1991 American fantasy adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by James V. Hart and Malia Scotch Marmo. It stars Robin Williams as Peter Banning/Peter Pan, Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook, Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell, Bob Hoskins as Smee, Maggie Smith as Wendy, Caroline Goodall as Moira Banning, and Charlie Korsmo as Jack Banning. It acts as a sequel to J. M. Barrie‘s 1911 novel Peter and Wendy focusing on an adult Peter Pan who has forgotten all about his childhood. In his new life, he is known as Peter Banning, a successful but unimaginative and workaholic corporate lawyer with a wife (Wendy’s granddaughter) and two children. However, when Captain Hook, the enemy of his past, kidnaps his children, he returns to Neverland in order to save them. Along the journey he reclaims the memories of his past.
Spielberg began developing the film in the early 1980s with Walt Disney Productions and Paramount Pictures, which would have followed the story line seen in the 1924 silent film and 1953 animated film. It entered pre-production in 1985, but Spielberg abandoned the project. James V. Hart developed the script with director Nick Castle and TriStar Pictures before Spielberg decided to direct in 1989. It was shot almost entirely on sound stages at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California. It received mixed reviews from critics, and while it was a commercial success, its box office take was lower than expected. It was nominated in five categories at the 64th Academy Awards.
Watch the trailer here.