Clive Stanley Donner (21 January 1926 – 6 September 2010) was a British film director who was a defining part of the British New Wave, directing films such as The Caretaker, Nothing But the Best, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush and What's New Pussycat?. He also directed television movies and commercials through the mid-1990s.
Donner was born in West Hampstead, London. His father was a concert violinist and his mother ran a dress shop; his grandparents were Polish immigrants. Donner began his filmmaking career while attending Kilburn Polytechnic. He started in the film industry working as a cutting-room assistant at Denham Studios, having got the spot after joining his father, who was at the studio to record the soundtrack for the 1943 film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Donner did national service with the Royal Army Educational Corps, and afterwards was hired by Pinewood Studios as a film editor, where the movies he worked on included The Card, The Million Pound Note starring Gregory Peck, I Am a Camera, Alastair Sim's 1951 Christmas classic Scrooge and the 1953 Genevieve, a comedy about two couples involved in a vintage automobile rally.
He began his professional directing career on a number of low-budget films with several low-budget films he worked on at Pinewood, including the 1957 crime drama The Secret Place about a troubled youth starring Belinda Lee, Ronald Lewis and David McCallum, Heart of a Child the 1958 tear jerker starring Jean Anderson and Donald Pleasence, and Some People a film about a group of alienated youth who form their own rock band, starring Kenneth More and Ray Brooks. His television work during that time included episodes of Danger Man and Sir Francis Drake, as well Mighty and Mystical, a documentary series about India.
Donner's breakthrough directing role came in 1963 with The Caretaker, a film made with a low budget funded almost entirely by financial contributions starting at £1,000 each from such individuals as Richard Burton, Noël Coward, Peter Sellers and Elizabeth Taylor, with the stars bypassing their standard fees and taking shares of the film's revenue. The movie, based on the play of the same name by Harold Pinter, was filmed in black-and-white with cinematography by Nicolas Roeg.
Donner's next film, 1964's Nothing But the Best, was a satire on the British class system starring Alan Bates and Denholm Elliott, based on a screenplay by Frederic Raphael. The film tells the story of Jimmy Brewster (played by Bates) as a lower-class striver who seeks to move up in the system under the tutelage of his upper crust instructor Charlie Prince (Elliott).
Donner made his first Hollywood film in 1965 with What's New Pussycat?, a comedy starring Peter O'Toole and Peter Sellers. O'Toole played the womanizer Michael James, who does his best to remain faithful to his fiancée Carole Werner (played by Romy Schneider), while a bevy of women — Ursula Andress, Capucine, Paula Prentiss — fall in love with him, with Sellers playing the role of his psychoanalyst, Dr. Fassbender. The success of the title song, performed by Tom Jones, added to the movie's popularity with audiences. Woody Allen, who wrote the screenplay and made his first screen appearance in the movie, hated the film, saying that the vision he had for the movie in his original script had been distorted.
Donner's 1967 film Luv, an adaptation of the play by Murray Schisgal, starred Peter Falk, Jack Lemmon and Elaine May, but the addition of locations and characters to the original work led to criticism of the casting and direction, and the film was a commercial failure. Donner rounded out the 1960s with the 9th-century period piece Alfred the Great in 1969, starring David Hemmings.
Donner directed the 1974 film Vampira, a comedy horror film of the vampire genre that sought to piggyback on the commercial success of Young Frankenstein.
In 1977 he directed the made-for-television movie Spectre, produced by Gene Roddenberry.
1980 brought The Nude Bomb, a comedy based on the television series Get Smart, which featured Don Adams reprising his role as secret agent Maxwell Smart. Donner followed up in 1981 with the spoof Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen that featured Angie Dickinson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Peter Ustinov.
For television he directed the 1982 movie The Scarlet Pimpernel with Ian McKellen and Jane Seymour. He also directed television production of the Charles Dickens classics Oliver Twist in 1982 and A Christmas Carol in 1984, both of which starred George C. Scott.
Donner died at age 84 on 7 September 2010 in London due to complications of Alzheimer's disease. His Australian wife, Jocelyn Rickards, a costume designer whom he met while working on Alfred the Great and married in 1969, had died in 2005.
- The Purple Plain (1954) (editor)
- The Secret Place (1957)
- Heart of a Child (1958)
- The Sinister Man (1961)
- Some People (1962)
- The Caretaker (1963)
- Nothing But the Best (1964)
- What's New Pussycat? (1965)
- Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1967)
- Luv (1967)
- Alfred the Great (1969)
- Vampira (1974)
- Rogue Male (1976)
- Spectre (1977)
- The Three Hostages (1977)
- The Thief of Baghdad (1978)
- The Nude Bomb (1980)
- Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)
- Oliver Twist (1982)
- The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
- To Catch a King (1984)
- A Christmas Carol (1984)
- Arthur the King (1985)
- Dead Man's Folly (1986)
- Babes in Toyland (1986)
- Stealing Heaven (1988)
- Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (1990)
- Charlemagne, le prince à cheval (1993)