RICHARD LESTER


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Richard Lester was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1932, but because of his close association with The Beatles, and his movies made in England, some think of him as British. After working in television in Pennsylvania, he moved to London when he was 21, and worked in TV there. He had the good fortune to work with Peter Sellers, which led to a short film with Sellers, The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film, which led to a feature with Sellers. John Lennon had seen Lester's short film and liked it, and he picked Lester to direct The Beatles' first movie, A Hard Day's Night. Lester delivered a movie unlike anything anyone could have expected (or had seen before) and many people consider it to be the forerunner of the music videos that would become so popular many years later. Lester also directed Help in a similar style, and then the following year directed A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, an adaptation of the wonderful play by Larry Gelbart and Steven Sondheim, and he greatly "opened up" the show, using similar techniques to those he had used in his two Beatles films. He followed with How I Won the War, an ultra-black war comedy, and his next movie was Petulia, an even blacker relationship melodrama. That was his last movie in this vein. He became a director of much more standard fare, with movies like The Three Musketeers, Juggernaut, and Royal Flash. He did have one more movie that showed signs of his earlier brilliance, Robin and Marion, with a great script by James Goldman. He became embroiled in two controversies. One was when he filmed both The Three Musketeers and its sequel at the same time, but tried to only pay the actors for one movie! He also was hired to finish Superman II when directed Richard Donner was fired, and even though the movie was mostly completed he drastically re-cut it and changed it (in 2006 the Donner version was recreated and released). In 1989 Lester was filming yet another sequel, The Return of the Musketeers, and his good friend actor Roy Kinnear was killed during the filming, and that had a huge effect on Lester, and other than a Paul McCartney video in 1991, he sadly has not directed since. Lester was one of the most influential directors of the 1960s, and it seems quite reasonable to call him the father of the music video! As of 2020, he is still alive at the age of 88!
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