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Val Guest

Val Guest
Born Valmond Maurice Grossmann
(1911-12-11)11 December 1911
Maida Vale, London, England
Died 10 May 2006(2006-05-10) (aged 94)
Palm Springs, California, USA
Spouse(s) Violet Johnson (known as Pat Watson, 1935–c.1954)[1]
Yolande Donlan (1954–2006)

Val Guest (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 1
  • Directing career 2
  • Later career 3
  • Private life and honours 4
  • Filmography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life and career

He was born Valmond Maurice Grossmann to Jewish parents John Simon Grossmann and Julia Ann Gladys Emanuel in Maida Vale, London. His father was a jute seller, and the family spent some of Guest's childhood in India. His parents divorced when he was young, but this information was kept from him. Instead he was told that his mother had died.[1] He was educated at Seaford College in Sussex, but left in 1927 and worked for a time as a book keeper.[1] Guest formally changed his name in 1939.[4]

Guest's initial career was as an actor, appearing in various productions in London theatres. He also appeared in a few early sound film roles, before he quit acting and began a writing career. For a time, around 1934, he was the London correspondent for the Hollywood Reporter trade paper at the time when the publication began an edition for the UK.[5][6] before he began working 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, working with Will Hay's comedies such as Oh, Mr Porter! (1937) and Ask a Policeman (1939), and The Crazy Gang.[7]

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. He continued to be involved with the film industry for the next 40 years as director and screenwriter. Some of this large number of films he also produced.

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, the American actress Yolande Donlan. Guest shot The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) as though it was a television documentary.[8] Its success led the Hammer company changing its direction, and Guest directed the first sequel, Quatermass 2 (1957). He also directed other science-fiction films such as The Abominable Snowman (1957), from a Kneale TV play, and The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) which won Guest and Wolf Mankowitz a BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay.[9] An earlier project with Mankowitz, was a screen adaptation of Expresso Bongo (1959), from the stage musical for which Mankowitz had co-written the book, in which Cliff Richard made his first starring film appearance.

Later career

Guest was one of five credited directors (another was John Huston) to work on the spoof James Bond film Casino Royale (1967). 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. A critically mauled picture in its day, Guest opted for an 'Additional Sequences' credit after he saw the completed film.

Also badly received was Toomorrow (1970), a film with Olivia Newton-John in the lead. According to Christopher Hawtree, it is "a staggeringly dreadful movie".[7] 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 (also 1970).[10]

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).[11] 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]

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.[7] An autobiography, So You Want to be in Pictures, was published in 2001.

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 8 of his films during the 1950s.[12] After Guest retired in 1985, the couple lived together in retirement in California.[7]

In 2004, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to Guest and Donlan.[13] Guest died in a hospice in Palm Desert, California from prostate cancer.[11]





  1. ^ a b c Steve Chibnall "Guest, Val", in Lawrence Goldman (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2005-2008, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, p. 465.
  2. ^ "Val Guest". BFI. 
  3. ^ a b c Chibnall, Steve. "Guest, Val (1911-2006) Biography". BFI Screenonline.  Reprinted from Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors
  4. ^ William D. Rubinstein (et al) The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, p.382
  5. ^ a b c d e Gifford, Denis; Hearn, Marcus (15 May 2006). "Val Guest". The Independent. London. Retrieved 7 January 2015. 
  6. ^ Wheeler Winston Dixon, Rutgers University Press, Jul 11, 2007, Film Talk: Directors at Work, Retrieved November 10, 2014 (see page 26 paragraph two), ISBN 978-0-8135-4077-1
  7. ^ a b c d Christopher Hawtree, Val Guest obituary, The Guardian, 16 May 2006.
  8. ^ Obituary: Val Guest, Daily Telegraph, 16 May 2006
  9. ^ "Film: Best British Screenplay 1962", BAFTA
  10. ^ "Movie Review - When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth - ' When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth' in Neighborhood Houses -". 
  11. ^ a b Dennis McLennan "Val Guest, 94; Director, Writer Best Known for Science-Fiction Movies", Los Angeles Times, 22 May 2006
  12. ^ Ronald Bergan "Yolande Donlan obituary", The Guardian, 5 January 2015
  13. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated

External links

  • Val Guest at the Internet Movie Database
  • at BFI ScreenonlineVal Guest
  • Val Guest at the Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and television
  • , "Val Guest, director known for sci-fi films, dies at 94" May 22, 2006San Jose Mercury News
  • Tribute to Val Guest at The Thunder Child Science Fiction Webzine
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