|Born||4 September 1892|
Brighton, Sussex, England
|Died||18 February 1958 65) (aged|
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, England
Adrian Brunel (4 September 1892 – 18 February 1958) was an English film director and screenwriter. Brunel's directorial career started in the silent era, and reached its peak in the latter half of the 1920s. His surviving work from the 1920s, both full-length feature films and shorts, is highly regarded by silent film historians for its distinctive innovation, sophistication and wit. With the arrival of talkies, Brunel's career ground to a halt and he was absent from the screen for several years before returning in the mid-1930s with a flurry of quota quickie productions, the majority of which are now classed as lost. Brunel's last credit as director was in a 1940 comedy film, although he worked for a few years more as a "fixer-up" for films directed or produced by friends in the industry. 
After decades of neglect, Brunel's work has latterly been rediscovered and has undergone a critical re-evaluation. His lost films are eagerly sought, and the British Film Institute includes two, The Crooked Billet (1929) and Badger's Green (1934), on its "75 Most Wanted" list of missing British feature films.  
Born in Brighton in 1892, Brunel was educated at Harrow School. His mother Adey was a drama teacher so he grew up in a stage milieu and dabbled in acting and writing plays, as well as training in opera. On leaving school he worked for a time as a local journalist in Brighton before taking employment in London in the bioscope show distribution division of music hall chain Moss Empires. This spurred his interest in cinema, and in 1916 he and a friend formed a company called Mirror Films, which produced one film, The Cost of a Kiss, the following year. 
In 1920 Brunel joined with actor Leslie Howard and author A. A. Milne to set up Minerva Films, which produced six comedy shorts over a two-year period. Brunel's major break came in 1923, when he was offered the directorial role for the film The Man Without Desire , starring Ivor Novello. His feature film debut was a time-travelling story set in Venice and included location filming in the Italian city. Studio and post-production work took place in Germany, and the resulting work has been described as "one of the stranger films to emerge from Britain in the 1920s". 
Between 1923 and 1925, Brunel directed a series of sophisticated comedy burlesque short films, frequently lampooning fads or institutions of the day. Initially these were produced and distributed independently, but their popularity among film insiders and cognoscenti brought them to the attention of Michael Balcon, who offered Brunel the opportunity to produce them through Gainsborough Pictures. These films were replete with punning intertitles and playful visual wit, with a number parodying the silhouette animation technique pioneered by Lotte Reiniger by using live actors in place of animated cutouts (Two-Chinned Chow, Shimmy Sheik, and Yes, We Have No...! – in which a man is driven to distraction by the ubiquity of the song "Yes! We Have No Bananas" and travels to ever-more exotic and outlandish locations to escape it, only to find that no matter where in the world he goes, the song has got there first).
Other films were self-referential in highlighting the ability of film to produce a manipulated and distorted picture of reality. Brunel's most highly admired production of this period is 1924's Crossing the Great Sagrada, a spoof of the hugely popular travelogue genre of the time, in which its conventions are laid bare as the absurdities they are. Brunel uses the film to satirise the prevalent colonial view of "native people", while highlighting the dishonesty inherent in the genre with ludicrously incongruous intertitles, tagging a view of an African mud-hut village as Wapping, and a sequence of the heroes struggling across a desert landscape as Blackpool beach. Critic Jamie Sexton notes: "The film's surreal humour prefigures that of later innovative British comedy, such as Monty Python's Flying Circus . 
Brunel also targeted the British film industry itself, with So This Is Jollygood bemoaning what he saw as its general ineptitude in comparison with its American counterpart, and Cut It Out attacking the over-zealousness of the British film censors.
Impressed with Brunel's short film output, Balcon invited him to try his hand at directing full-length features for Gainsborough. This resulted in five films between 1926 and 1929, all of which were high profile, big-budget productions with star names, and were designed as serious prestige vehicles with none of the opportunities for the humour and facetiousness of most of Brunel's earlier work. The first release was Blighty , a class-based study of life during World War I, written by Brunel's friend Ivor Montagu. It was reported that Brunel was initially uneasy about directing a "war film" as it went against his moral values; however the finished product contained no militaristic or jingoistic material, concentrating instead on the effects of the unseen war on an English family. 
In 1928 there followed two films which reunited Brunel with Novello as his leading actor: the first screen adaptation of Margaret Kennedy's best-selling novel The Constant Nymph and a version of the Noël Coward play The Vortex . Brunel's third film of 1928 was A Light Woman starring Benita Hume, while 1929 brought the Madeleine Carroll vehicle The Crooked Billet, which Brunel described in his autobiography as "my last, and perhaps my best, silent film".  The film's "lost" status however precludes it from being critically evaluated alongside his surviving work.
With the introduction of talkies to British cinema, Brunel's career impetus came to a sudden halt. It is not exactly clear why Brunel in particular should have found his career so comprehensively derailed at this time, although it is suggested that his pursuance of a legal claim against Gainsborough for alleged non-payment of fees may well have tarnished his reputation in the film industry by making him appear a potential trouble-maker.  After writing partly directing 1930's Elstree Calling for British International Pictures, he was sacked by the studio, who enlisted Alfred Hitchcock to finish the picture, and no further film offers were forthcoming. 
Brunel returned to film directing in 1933, and over the following four years made 17 quota quickies, mainly for Fox British. As was the norm with quota quickie directors, Brunel's films in this period encompassed a range of genres from comedy and musicals, through drama, to thrillers and crime. However, few of these films are known to survive. Brunel's last three feature films, The Rebel Son (1938); The Lion Has Wings (1939), a three-way directorial venture with Michael Powell and Brian Desmond Hurst; and The Girl Who Forgot (1940), were more visible productions which do survive.
Following these, Brunel drew a line under his directorial career, although he did continue for a time to offer uncredited help as a favour, most notably to his old friend Leslie Howard on The First of the Few (1942) and The Gentle Sex (1943). He published an autobiography Nice Work in 1949, and died in February 1958, aged 65.
In an assessment of Brunel's significance in British cinema history, Geoff Brown concludes: "...(his) career was clearly not what it might have been, and the apparent absence of surviving copies of many of his talkies makes a thorough re-evaluation of his work difficult. But the burlesque comedies alone give him a distinctive place in British cinema history as a satirical jester, and a key player in the film industry's uneasy war between art and commerce." 
Brunel wrote two guides to filmmaking and a memoir detailing his time in the industry. 
Sir Michael Elias Balcon was an English film producer known for his leadership of Ealing Studios in West London from 1938 to 1955. Under his direction, the studio became the one of the most important British film studios of the day. In an industry short of Hollywood-style moguls, Balcon emerged as a key figure, and an obdurately British one too, in his benevolent, somewhat headmasterly approach to the running of a creative organization. He is known for his leadership, and his guidance of young Alfred Hitchcock.
Gainsborough Pictures was a British film studio based on the south bank of the Regent's Canal, in Poole Street, Hoxton in the former Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch, north London. Gainsborough Studios was active between 1924 and 1951. The company was initially based at Islington Studios, which were built as a power station for the Great Northern & City Railway and later converted to studios.
Charles Herbert Frend was an English film director and editor, best known for his films produced at Ealing Studios. He began directing in the early 1940s and is known for such films as Scott of the Antarctic (1948) and The Cruel Sea (1953).
Harold Baim (1914–1996) was a British film producer, director and writer. He was born in Leeds in 1914; he died in Reading, Berkshire in 1996.
Victor Saville was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He directed 39 films between 1927 and 1954. He also produced 36 films between 1923 and 1962.
Julius Hagen (1884–1940) was a German-born British film producer who produced more than a hundred films in Britain.
Badger's Green is a 1934 British comedy film directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Valerie Hobson, Bruce Lester, David Horne and Wally Patch. It was adapted from the 1930 play Badger's Green by R.C. Sheriff. A picturesque village is threatened with redevelopment by a speculative builder, leading to widespread protest. In the end the builder agrees to settle the future of the village on the result of a cricket match.
Samuel George Herbert Mason was a British film director, producer, stage actor, army officer, presenter of some revues, stage manager, stage director, choreographer, production manager and playwright. He was a recipient of the Military Cross the prestigious award for "gallantry during active operations against the enemy." He received the gallantry award for his part in the Battle of Guillemont where British troops defeated the Germans to take the German stronghold of Guillemont.
The First Offence is a 1936 British low-budget "quota quickie" drama film directed by Herbert Mason, produced by Michael Balcon for Gainsborough Pictures and starring John Mills, Lilli Palmer and Bernard Nedell. It is a remake of the 1934 French film Mauvaise Graine, directed by Billy Wilder.
Arthur Bickerstaffe Woods was an English film director with 27 credits between 1933 and 1940. Woods' films were mainly quota quickies but were diverse in style, from light comedy and musicals to dark crime thrillers. His most acclaimed film is 1938's They Drive by Night. By the end of the 1930s Woods was gaining a reputation as one of Britain's most promising and versatile young directors, but put his career on hold to volunteer for war service in the Royal Air Force, the only British film director to do so. He was killed while on active service in February 1944, leaving his potential largely unfulfilled.
The Crooked Billet is a 1929 British drama film directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Madeleine Carroll, Carlyle Blackwell and Miles Mander. It was released in both silent and sound versions, as its production came as the industry was shifting over. It was made by Gainsborough Pictures at their Islington Studios.
Blighty is a 1927 British World War I silent drama film directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Ellaline Terriss, Lillian Hall-Davis and Jameson Thomas. The film was a Gainsborough Pictures production with screenplay by Eliot Stannard from a story by Ivor Montagu.
Vanity is a 1935 British comedy film directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Jane Cain, Percy Marmont and John Counsell. The plot concerns a conceited actress, convinced of the general adoration in which she is held, faking her own death in order to gratify herself by observing the depth of grief caused by her demise. However the actual reactions to the "news" prove to be far from what she had expected.
While Parents Sleep is a 1935 British comedy film directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Jean Gillie, Enid Stamp Taylor and Romilly Lunge. The film is a screen adaptation of a 1932 play of the same name by Anthony Kimmins, which had been a popular success on the West End stage in the West End of London.
Timbuctoo is a 1933 British comedy film, co-directed by Walter Summers and Arthur B. Woods for British International Pictures, and starring Henry Kendall and Margot Grahame. Although BIP had a reputation for churning out films quickly and cheaply, in this case they allocated enough of a budget to finance location filming in Africa.
Brock Williams was a prolific English screenwriter with over 100 films to his credit between 1930 and 1962. He also had a brief directorial career, and later also worked in television. Two of his novels The Earl of Chicago and Uncle Willie and the Bicycle Shop were both adapted into films.
Reginald Beck was a British film editor with forty-nine credits from 1932 to 1985. He is noted primarily for films done with Laurence Olivier in the 1940s and with Joseph Losey in the 1960s and 1970s.
Follow the Lady is a 1933 British comedy film directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Marguerite Allan, William Hartnell and D. A. Clarke-Smith. A Frenchwoman attempts to blackmail a wealthy man. The film was a quota quickie, produced on commission from the Fox Film Corporation to allow them to meet their yearly quota.
Two Wives for Henry is a 1933 British comedy film directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Garry Marsh, Dorothy Boyd and Jack Raine. A man decides to take a "substitute" wife with him for a vacation in Brighton, but things soon begin to go wrong.
Love at Sea is a 1936 British comedy film directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Rosalyn Boulter, Carl Harbord and Aubrey Mallalieu. During production a major fire broke out at British and Dominions Elstree Studios where the film was being shot. Brunel moved production to the nearby Rock Studios and managed to complete the film on time. The screenplay concerns a woman travelling on a cruise ship who falls in love with a suspected thief on board.