Lester, Richard

Lester, Richard

▪ American filmmaker
born January 19, 1932, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.

      American filmmaker who successfully transferred the fast-cut stream-of-consciousness style of television commercials to the big screen.

      A piano prodigy, Lester continued his musical activities while pursuing a psychology degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He traveled to Europe in 1954, ostensibly as a “roving correspondent” for a newspaper syndicate, and paid his way by playing guitar and piano. Within a year he was at London's Independent Television studios, again as a composer and director. He hosted his own one-shot Dick Lester Show in 1956, which though a disaster led to a series of choice directorial assignments on the various television projects of The Goon Show cocreators Spike Milligan (Milligan, Spike) and Peter Sellers (Sellers, Peter). Also during this period, he began directing commercials, an activity to which he would periodically return throughout his career.

      While working on Milligan's TV series A Show Named Fred, he provided frantic, non sequitur filmed segments. These came to fruition in his theatrical-film directorial debut, The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film (1959), which featured Milligan and Sellers in a series of surreal sketches and sight gags. Lester graduated to features with It's Trad, Dad! (1962), a low-budget capitalization on Britain's then current traditional jazz craze. When he helmed his first studio-financed film, The Mouse on the Moon, the following year, he continued to rely upon working methods he had honed for television, including the cost-saving use of multiple cameras. Because of this work, Lester was chosen to direct the Beatles (Beatles, the)' first film, A Hard Day's Night (1964). Though tightly scripted by Alun Owen, the film possessed a charmingly spontaneous, improvisational energy that not only encapsulated the dizzy euphoria of “Beatlemania” but influenced moviemaking in general during the 1960s. Described by critic Andrew Sarris as “the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals,” A Hard Day's Night was followed by another enjoyable Beatles-Lester collaboration, Help! (1965).

      With the exception of Petulia (1968), a comparatively straightforward account of an extramarital affair in contemporary San Francisco, Lester's other 1960s movies—the “swinging London” spoof The Knack (1965), the Broadway adaptation A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), the wickedly satiric antiwar pieces How I Won the War (1967) and The Bed-Sitting Room (1969)—were cut from the same stylistic cloth as the director's two Beatles pictures. His later films were more “mainstream” than his earlier efforts, though no less visually stunning. These included the all-star swashbucklers The Three Musketeers (1974), The Four Musketeers (1975), and Royal Flash (1975), the revisionist Robin and Marian (1976), the bittersweet historical romance Cuba (1979), and the lavish comic-book derivations Superman II (1980) and Superman III (1983).

      After The Return of the Musketeers (1989), Lester virtually retired from filmmaking, reportedly disheartened by the on-set accidental death of his longtime colleague comic actor Roy Kinnear. He was briefly coaxed back to work by former Beatle Paul McCartney, who engaged the director's services for the concert feature Get Back (1991).

Additional Reading
Andrew Yule, The Man Who “Framed” the Beatles: A Biography of Richard Lester (1994).

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • LESTER, RICHARD — (1932– ), film director. Born in the United States, Lester immigrated to England in 1954. He won prominence in 1964 with A Hard Day s Night, a quasi documentary in which the Beatles poked fun at the craze they themselves had started. In 1965, his …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

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  • Richard Lester — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Lester. Richard Lester Données clés Naissance 19 janvier 1932 (1932 01 19) (79 ans) Philadelphie, États Unis Nationalit …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Richard Lester — (* 19. Januar 1932 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ist ein US amerikanischer Filmregisseur, Filmproduzent und Autor. Lester galt als Wunderkind und begann schon mit 15 Jahren ein Studium an der University of Pennsylvania, wo er sich früh für den… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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