J. Lee Thompson

Active - 1937 - 1989  |   Born - Aug 1, 1914   |   Died - Aug 30, 2002   |   Genres - Drama, Thriller, Crime, Adventure, Comedy

Share on

Biography by Hal Erickson

Before reaching his twentieth birthday, British film director J. Lee Thompson was an established repertory actor and playwright. He entered films as an actor in 1934, then switched to screenwriting (usually in collaboration) five years later. Lee-Thompson's directorial debut was Murder Without Crime (1950), but it was his second picture, the noirish The Yellow Balloon (1951), which established him as a bankable director of action programmers. In 1958, Lee-Thompson introduced Hayley Mills to moviegoers in the taut melodrama Tiger Bay (1958). After 1960's I Aim at the Stars, an historically questionable Werner Von Braun biopic, Lee-Thompson was given his most prestigious directing assignment to date: The international moneyspinner The Guns of Navarone (1961). Henceforth all of Lee-Thompson's projects would be expensive A-pictures, even those with B-story values and artistic aspirations like 1961's Cape Fear. The director's style veered from pristine stylishness (What a Way to Go [1964]) to appalling tastelessness (John Goldfarb Please Come Home [1966]); in general, Lee-Thompson could be counted upon for excellent box-office returns. Most of his later assignments were erratic in quality: For every McKenna's Gold (1968), there'd be a Greek Tycoon (1978). In the early '80s, J. Lee-Thompson and his Jaylee production firm hopped on the Indiana Jones bandwagon with a brace of sloppily constructed adventure films (actually one long film cut in two) based on H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography