Authors: Gavin Lambert

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English-born American novelist and screenwriter

Identity: Gay or bisexual

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Slide Area: Scenes of Hollywood Life, 1960

Inside Daisy Clover, 1963

Norman’s Letter, 1966

A Case for the Angels, 1968

The Goodby People, 1971

In the Night All Cats Are Grey, 1976

Running Time, 1983

Screenplays:

Another Sky, 1956

Bitter Victory, 1958

Sons and Lovers, 1960 (adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s novel)

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, 1961 (adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s novel)

Inside Daisy Clover, 1965 (adaptation of his novel)

Who Slew Auntie Roo?, 1971

I Want What I Want, 1972

Interval, 1973

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, 1978 (adaptation of Joanne Greenberg’s novel)

Dead on the Money, 1991

Nonfiction:

On Cukor, 1972, revised 2000

GWTW: The Making of “Gone with the Wind,” 1973

The Dangerous Edge, 1975

Norma Shearer: A Life, 1990

Nazimova: A Biography, 1997

Mainly About Lindsay Anderson: A Memoir, 2000

Biography

Born in Sussex, England, and educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, in the early 1950’s, Gavin Lambert lived in London, where he founded the film magazine Sequence and edited and wrote for Sight and Sound. During this decade, in which he developed a reputation as the best of English film critics, he wrote the script for the film Another Sky, which he then directed on location in Morocco. Yet to Lambert’s way of thinking, British arts were stagnating, whereas the United States seemed to encourage innovation and to hold more promise and freedom for artists. When Lambert emigrated to Hollywood in 1956 he began a second career as a novelist with The Slide Area (1960). Among other credits, Lambert wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of his second novel, Inside Daisy Clover. In 1960 he was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay Sons and Lovers. He was nominated for this award again in 1977 for I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Living in the Los Angeles area, Lambert became an American citizen in 1964; he has spent occasional periods in France (he grew disenchanted with the United States in the 1970’s) and Morocco.{$I[AN]9810001680}{$I[A]Lambert, Gavin}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Lambert, Gavin}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Lambert, Gavin}{$I[geo]GAY OR BISEXUAL;Lambert, Gavin}{$I[tim]1924;Lambert, Gavin}

Lambert’s The Slide Area explores the Los Angeles area through the eyes of a writer caught between a film script on which he does not enjoy working and a novel he cannot seem to get started. The “slide area” is both geographical and metonymic Los Angeles, which in Lambert’s eyes embodies the precarious and illusory aspects of twentieth century America. Norman’s Letter is an epistolary novel whose narrator, Sir Norman Lightwood, addresses his one-time lover Ahmin, of Marrakech. This darkly satirical letter spanning the years 1936 to 1943 included portraits of Norman’s Fascist sister, his vampirical mother Lady Dorothea, and a couple of other unusual women, all drawn with Lambert’s customary vividness and wit. Norman’s Letter received the first Thomas R. Coward Memorial Award in Fiction.

The autobiographical The Goodby People is a series of three meditations on elusive Los Angeles acquaintances: a former model and heiress, a draft-dodging gay drifter, and a young woman who seems to have a telepathic relationship with an aging actress. The Goodby People marked a new stage in American fiction, one in which sexual orientation may be central to a character’s identity but not central to the plot or theme of the book.

The 1976 novel In the Night All Cats Are Grey returns to two of the themes of Norman’s Letter: the dangerous mother and the untrustworthy woman. This brief existential novel explores the limited world of an orphaned library worker trying to reconcile two opposing worldviews, chance and fate. The Dangerous Edge is an exploration of the lives of nine masters of suspense and melodrama: Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G. K. Chesterton, John Buchan, Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler, and Alfred Hitchcock. Here Lambert explores the role of the detective in an irrational universe as depicted by several creators; the chapter on Hitchcock is especially good.

The 1972 On Cuckor consists of conversational interviews with director George Cukor, recorded over several months at Cukor’s home in 1970. Cukor discusses his forty years of work on such films as Travels with My Aunt, Little Women, Camille, Dinner at Eight, The Philadelphia Story, Adam’s Rib, and A Star Is Born. In the 1973 book GWTW: The Making of “Gone with the Wind,” Lambert continued his insider’s exploration of filmmaking. In 1990 he published the biography Norma Shearer, followed by a biography of the silent film actress Alla Nazimova. In 2000, Lambert published a book on filmmaker Lindsay Anderson, but since the two had been friends since their teen years, Lambert framed it as a memoir rather than a biography. Lambert believed that the cinematic style of his work, which he acknowledged adhered to a “movie way of thinking,” shares common ground with most twentieth century writers, who have nearly all been influenced by films. Lamber died in Los Angeles on July 17, 2005.

BibliographyHeilbrun, Carolyn G. “An Interview with Gavin Lambert.” Twentieth Century Literature 22, no. 3 (1976): 332-342. Emphasizes Lambert’s homosexual identity and his thoughts on the women’s and gay movements in the mid-1970’s.Lawrence, Amy. “Losing Her Voice: Silencing Two Daughters of Hollywood.” Style 35, no. 2 (2001): 219-236. Analyzes the metaphoric use of the recording booth as the site of “silencing” aspiring female performers in Inside Daisy Clover and other films.Thomson, David. “Fool Britannia.” The New Republic, November 20, 2000, pp. 38-41. A review of Mainly About Lindsay Anderson which gives much social background for understanding both men.
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