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David Hemmings

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Title: David Hemmings  
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Subject: Prisoners (1981 film), Harlequin (film), Islands in the Stream (film), Murder by Decree, Eye of the Devil
Collection: 1941 Births, 2003 Deaths, 20Th-Century English Male Actors, 20Th-Century English Singers, 20Th-Century English Writers, 20Th-Century Opera Singers, 21St-Century English Male Actors, 21St-Century English Singers, 21St-Century English Writers, Benjamin Britten, Boy Sopranos, Cardiovascular Disease Deaths in Romania, Deaths from Myocardial Infarction, English Autobiographers, English Child Singers, English Film Directors, English Film Producers, English Male Child Actors, English Male Film Actors, English Male Musical Theatre Actors, English Male Television Actors, English Opera Singers, English Pop Singers, English Screenwriters, English Singer-Songwriters, English Television Directors, English Television Producers, German-Language Film Directors, People Educated at Alleyn's School, People Educated at Glyn School, People from Guildford
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David Hemmings

David Hemmings
David Hemmings (1976)
Born David Edward Leslie Hemmings
(1941-11-18)18 November 1941
Guildford, Surrey, England, UK
Died 3 December 2003(2003-12-03) (aged 62)
Bucharest, Romania
Alma mater Glyn Grammar School
Occupation Actor, director, producer, screenwriter, singer-songwriter (operatic boy soprano) and pop singer)
Spouse(s)  • Genista Ouvry (1st marriage)
 • Gayle Hunnicutt (2nd marriage)
 • Prudence J. de Casembroot (3rd marriage)
 • Lucy Williams (4th marriage)
Children  • Deborah (with Ouvry)
 • Nolan Hemmings (with Hunnicutt)
 • George (with de Casembroot)
 • Edward (with de Casembroot)
 • Charlotte (with de Casembroot)
 • William (with de Casembroot)

David Edward Leslie Hemmings (18 November 1941 – 3 December 2003) was an English film, theatre and television actor as well as a film and television director and producer.[1] He and his manager created the Hemdale Film Corporation in 1967.

He is noted for his role as the photographer in the drama mystery-thriller film Blowup (1966), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Early in his career, Hemmings was a boy soprano appearing in operatic roles. In his later acting career, he was known for his distinctive eyebrows and gravelly voice.


  • Career 1
    • Early life and early performances 1.1
    • Film and television work 1.2
    • Music 1.3
  • Autobiography 2
  • Personal life 3
    • Death 3.1
    • Cultural References 3.2
  • Filmography and television work 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Early life and early performances

David Hemmings was born in Guildford, Surrey, to a cookie salesman father.[2] His education at Alleyn's School, Glyn Grammar School in Ewell, and the Arts Educational School, led him to start his career performing as a boy soprano in several works by the composer Benjamin Britten, who formed a close friendship with him at this time. Most notably, Hemmings created the role of Miles in Britten's chamber opera Turn of the Screw (1954). His intimate, yet innocent, relationship with Britten is described in John Bridcut's book Britten's Children (2006). Although many commentators identified Britten's relationship with Hemmings as based on an infatuation, throughout his life Hemmings maintained categorically that Britten's conduct with him was beyond reproach at all times. Hemmings had earlier played the title role in Britten's The Little Sweep (1952), which was part of Britten's Let's Make An Opera! children's production.

Britten's interest in Hemmings ceased very abruptly, from the moment his voice broke, which occurred unexpectedly while singing the aria "Malo" during a performance of The Turn of the Screw in 1956 in Paris. Britten was furious, waved Hemmings away, and never had any further contact with him.[3]

Film and television work

Hemmings then moved on to acting and directing in film. He made his first film appearance in the drama film The Rainbow Jacket (1954), but it was in the mid-1960s that he first became well known as a pin-up and film star.

Antonioni, who detested the "Method" way of acting,[4] sought to find a fresh young face for the lead in his next production, Blowup.[5] It was then that he found Hemmings, at the time acting in small stage theatre in London, although, at their first meeting, Antonioni told Hemmings, "you look wrong. You're too young".[5] Hemmings was offered the part of the protagonist after actor Sean Connery turned the role down because Antonioni wouldn't show him the full script but only a 7-page treatment stored in a cigarette packet.[6]

Following Blowup, Hemmings appeared in a string of major British films, including the musical film Camelot (1967), the war film The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), the science-fiction film Barbarella (1968) and, in the title role, the epic film Alfred the Great (1969) .

Around 1967, Hemmings was briefly considered for the role of Alex in a planned film version of Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), which was to be based on a screen treatment by satirist Terry Southern and British photographer Michael Cooper. Cooper and the Rolling Stones rock band were reportedly upset by the move and it was decided to return to the original plan in which Mick Jagger, the lead vocalist of the Rolling Stones, would play Alex, with the rest of the Stones as his droog gang; the production was shelved after Britain's chief censor, the Lord Chamberlain, indicated that he would not permit it to be made.[7]

Hemmings directed the drama film The 14 (1973), which won the Silver Bear at the 23rd Berlin International Film Festival.[8] He appeared in the Italian giallo film Profondo Rosso (also known as Deep Red or The Hatchet Murders) (1975) directed by Dario Argento.

He directed David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich in the drama film Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo (also known as Just a Gigolo) (1978). The film was poorly received, with Bowie describing it as "my 32 Elvis Presley films rolled into one".[9] Hemmings directed the horror film The Survivor (1981), based on James Herbert's 1976 novel of the same name, starring Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter.

Throughout the 1980s he also worked extensively as a director on television programmes including the action-adventure drama series George Peppard.

Hemmings also directed the puzzle-contest video Money Hunt: The Mystery of the Missing Link (1984). He directed the television film The Key to Rebecca (1985), an adaptation of Ken Follett's 1980 novel of the same name. He also briefly served as a producer on the NBC crime-drama television series Stingray.

Hemmings played a vindictive cop in the docudrama film Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1980) about Arthur Allan Thomas (portrayed by John Hargreaves), a New Zealand farmer jailed for the murder of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe but later pardoned. He directed the drama film Dark Horse (1992) and as an actor returned to the voyeuristic preoccupations of his Blowup character with a plum part as the Big Brother-esque villain in the season-three opener for the television horror anthology series Tales From the Crypt.

In later years, he had roles including appearing as Cassius in the historical epic film Gladiator (2000), with Russell Crowe, as well as appearing in the drama film Last Orders (2001) and the spy film Spy Game (2001). He appeared as Mr. Schermerhorn in the historical film Gangs of New York (2002), directed by Martin Scorsese.

His final screen appearances included the science-fiction action film, Equilibrium (2002), shortly before his death, as well the superhero film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), with Sean Connery, and as Frank Sinatra's attorney in the 2003 Australian film The Night We Called It a Day, a comedy based on true events. He also appeared in the horror film Blessed (2004) with Heather Graham, which was dedicated to him in his memory after a fatal heart attack while on set.


In 1967, Hemmings recorded a pop single, "Back Street Mirror" (written by Gene Clark), and a studio album, David Hemmings Happens, in Los Angeles, California. The album featured instrumental backing by several members of the Byrds, and was produced by Byrds' mentor Jim Dickson.

In the 1970s, he was jointly credited with former Australian hit for singer John Paul Young – was produced by Simon Napier-Bell, in whose SNB Records label Hemmings was a partner at the time.

Hemmings also later provided the narration for Rick Wakeman's progressive-rock album Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974) – an adaptation of Jules Verne's science-fiction novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) – which was recorded live.

He starred as Bertie Wooster in the short-lived Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Jeeves (1975).


After his death his autobiography Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations – The Autobiography of David Hemmings was published in 2004.

Personal life

He was married four times: to Genista Ouvry (1960–1967), actress Gayle Hunnicutt (1968–1975), Prudence de Casembroot (1976–1997) and Lucy Williams (2002 to his death).[10] Hemmings met Hunnicutt while he was in America promoting Blow-Up, by which time his marriage to Ouvry was over. At their outdoor wedding, Henry Mancini conducted an orchestra and the Mamas and the Papas performed next to a swimming pool filled with doves dyed puce.[10] Of his relationship with Hunnicutt, Hemmings remarked, "We were the poor man's Taylor and Burton". Their marriage ended when Hunnicutt discovered Hemmings' affairs with actress Samantha Eggar, his co-star in The Walking Stick (1970), and his secretary Prudence de Casembroot.[10] During his subsequent marriage to Prudence de Casembroot, Hemmings continued his infidelities with, among others, Tessa Dahl, the daughter of Roald Dahl.[10]

He was an active supporter of Liberal causes, and spoke at a number of meetings on behalf of the Liberal Party.


Hemmings died, at age 62, of a heart attack, in Bucharest, Romania, on the film set of Blessed (working title: Samantha's Child) after playing his scenes for the day.[11]

He was survived by his wife Lucy; a daughter, Deborah, by his marriage to Ouvry; a son,

External links

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ , 5 June 2006The Independent, Britten's ChildrenJohn Bridcut, "The end of innocence", extract from . Retrieved 30 March 2014
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^ Hill, Lee (2002). A Grand Guy – The Art and Life of Terry Southern. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-7475-5835-4.
  8. ^
  9. ^ MacKinnon, Angus (13 September 1980). "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be". NME. pp. 32–37.
  10. ^ a b c d
  11. ^
  12. ^


See also

  • Hemmings, David (2004). Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations – The Autobiography of David Hemmings. Robson Books (London). ISBN 978-1-86105-789-1.


Filmography and television work

In an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus Graham Chapman plays a megalomaniac Hollywood producer who maps out an epic movie that would feature "David Hemmings as a hippie Gestapo officer."

Cultural References

His funeral was held in Calne, Wiltshire, where he had made his home for several years.


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