Val Guest

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Val Guest
Director Val Guest.jpg
Valmond Maurice Grossman

(1911-12-11)11 December 1911
Maida Vale, London, England
Died10 May 2006(2006-05-10) (aged 94)
Palm Springs, California, United States
Occupation Film director, screenwriter
Spouse(s)Violet Johnson (known as Pat Watson, 1935–c.1954) [1]
Yolande Donlan (1954–2006)
ChildrenDavid Val Guest (1939–2014)
Awards Best British Screenplay
1961 The Day the Earth Caught Fire

Val Guest (born Valmond Maurice Grossman; 11 December 1911 – 10 May 2006) was an English film director [2] and screenwriter. Beginning as a writer (and later director) of comedy films, he is best known for his work for Hammer, for whom he directed 14 films, and science fiction films. He enjoyed a long career in the film industry from the early 1930s until the early 1980s. [3]


Early life and career

Guest was born to John Simon Grossman and Julia Ann Gladys Emanuel in Maida Vale, London. He later changed his name to Val Guest (officially in 1939). [4] His father was a jute broker, and the family spent some of Guest's childhood in India before returning to England. His parents divorced when he was young, but this information was kept from him. Instead he was told that his mother had died. [2] He was educated at Seaford College in Sussex, but left in 1927 and worked for a time as a bookkeeper.

Guest's initial career was as an actor, appearing in productions in London theatres. He also appeared in a few early sound film roles, before he left acting and began a writing career.


For a time, around 1934, he was the London correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter (when the publication began a UK edition), [5] [6] before beginning work on film screenplays for Gainsborough Pictures.

This came about because the director Marcel Varnel had been incensed by comments Guest had made in his regular column, "Rambling Around", about the director's latest film. Challenged to write a screenplay by Varnel, Guest co-wrote his first script, which became No Monkey Business (1935) directed by Varnel. [5] This was to be the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership between the two men. [3] Guest was placed under contract as a staff writer at Gainsborough's Islington Studios in Poole Street. [5]

Guest wrote screenplays for the rest of the decade. His credits included All In (1936) for Varnel; Public Nuisance No. 1 (1936); A Star Fell from Heaven (1936); O-Kay for Sound (1937) for Varnel with The Crazy Gang; Alf's Button Afloat (1938) with Flanagan and Allen. He also wrote the Will Hay comedies Oh, Mr Porter! (1937) and Ask a Policeman (1939). He wrote Hi Gang! (1941) for Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels. [1]

Directing career

Guest became a fully-fledged director in the early 1940s (he had been responsible for some second-unit work previously). His first film was an Arthur Askey short, The Nose Has It (1942), warning of the dangers of spreading infection. [3]

Guest's debut feature was Miss London Ltd. (1943), again with Askey; Guest had worked on the scripts of earlier Askey films. Guest's second feature as director also starred Askey, Bees in Paradise (1944). He followed this with two films starring Vic Oliver and Margaret Lockwood, Give Us the Moon (1944) and I'll Be Your Sweetheart (1945); the latter was the first and only musical from Gainsborough Studios.

Guest directed two films based on the Just William stories, Just William's Luck (1947) and William Comes to Town (1948). He wrote and directed a thriller, Murder at the Windmill (1949).

Yolande Donlan

Guest then made the comedy Miss Pilgrim's Progress (1949) with Yolande Donlan who became his wife. The two reunited on The Body Said No! (1950); Mister Drake's Duck (1951), with Douglas Fairbanks Jr.; Penny Princess (1952) with Dirk Bogarde.

Hammer Films

Guest began an association with Hammer films when he directed The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954). After The Runaway Bus (1955) with Frankie Howerd he made Life with the Lyons (1955) with Daniels and Lyon, a spin off of their radio show. It was popular enough for Guest to make a sequel The Lyons in Paris (1955).

He did a thriller Break in the Circle (1954) and Dance, Little Lady (1954).

Despite his career in comedy films, he was offered the chance to direct Hammer's first Quatermass film, adapted from the BBC television serial by Nigel Kneale. Uncertain about taking it on, (he was not a fan of science fiction), he was persuaded to do so by his wife, Yolande Donlan. Guest shot The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) as though it was a television documentary. [7] Its success led the Hammer company changing its direction.

He followed it with a drama They Can't Hang Me (1955) and musical It's a Wonderful World (1956). Republic Pictures hired him to make the thriller The Weapon (1956) and he directed a comedy, Carry On Admiral (1957).

Quatermass had been a big hit and Hammer asked Guest to direct the first sequel, Quatermass 2 (1957). They also used him to do The Abominable Snowman (1957), from a Kneale TV play, and a POW movie, The Camp on Blood Island (1958).

Guest made a comedy Up the Creek which led to a sequel Further Up the Creek (1958).

Hammer asked him back to do another war movie, Yesterday's Enemy (1959) with Stanley Baker. Then he made the film version of Expresso Bongo (1959) with Dolan, giving an early role to Cliff Richard.

Guest returned to comedy with Life Is a Circus (1960) starring Bud Flanagan. He made another for Hammer with Stanley Baker, a tough crime film, Hell Is a City (1960). He followed this with a thriller for Hammer, The Full Treatment (1960).

Guest's next film, The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), won Guest and Wolf Mankowitz a BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay. [8]

Guest made Jigsaw (1962) and 80,000 Suspects (1963). The Beauty Jungle (1964) was an exposé on beauty competitions. Where the Spies Are (1965) was a spy film for MGM starring David Niven.

Later career

Guest was one of five credited directors (another was John Huston) to work on the spoof James Bond film Casino Royale (1967), a critically mauled picture in its day. Producer Charles K. Feldman asked Guest if he would direct, linking material to make what was left uncompleted, after the departure of Peter Sellers from the project, into a coherent narrative. Guest opted for an 'Additional Sequences' credit after he saw the completed film.

He made a thriller Assignment K (1968) then a musical Toomorrow (1970), a film with Olivia Newton-John in the lead. According to Christopher Hawtree, it is "a staggeringly dreadful movie". [1] Guest issued an injunction against Harry Saltzman, the producer, because he had not been paid for his work, and the film was quickly pulled from screenings. [5] Around the same time, Guest wrote and directed When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) for Hammer. [9]

Guest directed the soft core sex comedy Au Pair Girls (1972) and he followed this by directing the first of the Confessions of... series of sex comedy films, Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974). By now, he was working in television, directing episodes of series such as The Adventurer (1972–73), Space: 1999 (1976-77), and The Persuaders! (1971–72). [10] He did direct some features including Killer Force (1976).

Guest's final feature film work was writing and directing The Boys in Blue (1982), a vehicle for the British comedy double act Cannon and Ball. The film was a remake of a Will Hay picture, Ask a Policeman (1939), which Guest himself had co-written. [1] An autobiography, So You Want to be in Pictures, was published in 2001.

His last professional work was as the director of several episodes of the Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense series in 1984 and 1985. [5]

Private life and honours

Originally married to Pat Watson, the couple divorced after Guest fell in love with American actress Yolande Donlan who eventually became his wife in 1954; Donlan appeared in eight of his films during the 1950s. [11] After Guest retired in 1985, the couple lived together in retirement in California. [1]

In 2004, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to Guest and Donlan. [12] Guest died in a hospice in Palm Desert, California from prostate cancer. [10]




Related Research Articles

Hammer Film Productions Ltd. is a British film production company based in London. Founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of gothic horror films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Many of these involved classic horror characters such as Baron Frankenstein, Count Dracula, and The Mummy, which Hammer reintroduced to audiences by filming them in vivid colour for the first time. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies, as well as, in later years, television series. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success. This success was, in part, due to its distribution partnerships with American companies United Artists, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, American International Pictures and Seven Arts Productions.

Bernard Quatermass Fictional scientist

Professor Bernard Quatermass is a fictional scientist, originally created by the writer Nigel Kneale for BBC Television. An intelligent and highly moral British scientist, Quatermass is a pioneer of the British space programme, heading the British Experimental Rocket Group. He continually finds himself confronting sinister alien forces that threaten to destroy humanity.

Nigel Kneale British screenwriter

Thomas Nigel Kneale was a Manx screenwriter. He wrote professionally for more than 50 years, was a winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and was twice nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay. In 2000, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association.

<i>The Quatermass Xperiment</i> 1955 film by Val Guest

The Quatermass Xperiment is a 1955 British science fiction horror film drama from Hammer Film Productions, based on the 1953 BBC Television serial The Quatermass Experiment written by Nigel Kneale. The film was produced by Anthony Hinds, directed by Val Guest, and stars Brian Donlevy as the eponymous Professor Bernard Quatermass and Richard Wordsworth as the tormented Carroon. Jack Warner, David King-Wood, and Margia Dean appear in co-starring roles.

<i>Quatermass II</i> British television serial

Quatermass II is a British science-fiction serial, originally broadcast by BBC Television in the autumn of 1955. It is the second in the Quatermass series by writer Nigel Kneale, and the oldest of those serials to survive in its entirety in the BBC archives.

<i>Quatermass 2</i> 1957 film by Val Guest

Quatermass 2 is a 1957 black-and-white British science fiction horror film drama from Hammer Film Productions, produced by Anthony Hinds, directed by Val Guest, that stars Brian Donlevy, and co-stars John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Quatermass 2 is a sequel to Hammer's earlier film The Quatermass Xperiment (1955). Like its predecessor, it is based on the BBC Television serial Quatermass II written by Nigel Kneale. Brian Donlevy reprises his role as the eponymous Professor Bernard Quatermass, making him the only actor to play the character twice in a film.

<i>Quatermass and the Pit</i> (film) 1967 British science fiction horror film by Roy Ward Baker

Quatermass and the Pit is a 1967 British science fiction horror film from Hammer Film Productions, a sequel to the earlier Hammer films The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2. Like its predecessors, it is based on a BBC Television serial Quatermass and the Pit, written by Nigel Kneale. It was directed by Roy Ward Baker and stars Andrew Keir in the title role as Professor Bernard Quatermass, replacing Brian Donlevy who played the role in the two earlier films. James Donald, Barbara Shelley and Julian Glover appear in co-starring roles.

Andrew Keir Scottish actor (1926-1997)

Andrew Keir was a Scottish actor who appeared in a number of films made by Hammer Film Productions in the 1960s. He was also active in television, and especially in the theatre, in a professional career that lasted from the 1940s to the 1990s.

Sidney Gilliat was an English film director, producer and writer.

Terence Fisher British film director and film editor

Terence Fisher was a British film director best known for his work for Hammer Films.

Yolande Donlan American actress (1920-2014)

Yolande Donlan was an American-British actress who worked extensively in the United Kingdom.

<i>The Abominable Snowman</i> (film) 1957 film by Val Guest

The Abominable Snowman is a 1957 British fantasy-horror film directed by Val Guest and written by Nigel Kneale, based on his own BBC television play The Creature. Produced by Hammer Films, the plot follows the exploits of British scientist Dr. John Rollason, who joins an American expedition, led by glory-seeker Tom Friend, to search the Himalayas for the legendary Yeti. Maureen Connell, Richard Wattis and Arnold Marle appear in supporting roles.

Marcel Varnel was a film director. He was born Marcel Hyacinthe le Bozec in Paris, France.

Michael Carreras was a British film producer and director. He was known for his association with Hammer Studios, being the son of founder James Carreras, and taking an executive role in the company during its most successful years.

Arthur Crabtree was a British cinematographer and film director. He directed several of the Gainsborough Melodramas.

<i>Penny Princess</i> 1952 film directed by Val Guest

Penny Princess is a 1952 British Technicolor comedy written and directed by Val Guest for his own production company, Conquest Productions. The film stars his future wife Yolande Donlan, who was Guest's production company partner, and features Reginald Beckwith, the other partner in Conquest Productions. Dirk Bogarde plays the leading man.

<i>Mister Drakes Duck</i> 1951 film by Val Guest

Mr Drake's Duck is a 1951 British science fiction comedy film directed by Val Guest and starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Yolande Donlan, Jon Pertwee, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Reginald Beckwith. The screenplay concerns Mr Drake, a farmer, who discovers that his hens have started laying radioactive eggs.

<i>Life with the Lyons</i> (film) 1954 film by Val Guest

Life with the Lyons is a 1954 British comedy film directed by Val Guest and starring Bebe Daniels, Ben Lyon and Richard Lyon. It was a spin-off from the radio series Life with the Lyons, and the screenplay was based on previous episodes from the show.

<i>They Cant Hang Me</i> 1955 film by Val Guest

They Can't Hang Me is a 1955 British drama film directed by Val Guest and starring Terence Morgan, Yolande Donlan and Anthony Oliver. It was based on a novel by Leonard Mosley.

<i>Expresso Bongo</i> (film) 1959 film by Val Guest

Expresso Bongo is a 1959 film satire of the music industry directed by Val Guest, shot in uncredited black & white Dyaliscope and starring Laurence Harvey, Cliff Richard, and Yolande Donlan. It is adapted from the stage musical of the same name, which was first produced on the stage at the Saville Theatre, London, on 23 April 1958.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Hawtree, Christopher (16 May 2006). "Val Guest obituary". The Guardian.
  2. 1 2 "Val Guest". BFI. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 Chibnall, Steve. "Guest, Val (1911-2006) Biography". BFI Screenonline. Reprinted from Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors
  4. "London Gazette" (PDF). London Gazette.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Gifford, Denis; Hearn, Marcus (15 May 2006). "Val Guest". The Independent. London. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  6. Wheeler Winston Dixon, Rutgers University Press, 11 July 2007, Film Talk: Directors at Work, Retrieved 10 November 2014 (see page 26 paragraph two), ISBN   978-0-8135-4077-1
  7. Obituary: Val Guest, Daily Telegraph, 16 May 2006
  8. "Film: Best British Screenplay 1962", BAFTA
  9. "Movie Review - When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth - ' When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth' in Neighborhood Houses -".
  10. 1 2 Dennis McLennan "Val Guest, 94; Director, Writer Best Known for Science-Fiction Movies", Los Angeles Times, 22 May 2006
  11. Ronald Bergan "Yolande Donlan obituary", The Guardian, 5 January 2015
  12. Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated Archived 13 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine