Although he worked on two television police series in the 1950s, Leslie Gilliat devoted a large part of his career to producing films for the big screen, most notably three of the St Trinian’s films. Based on the cartoons of Ronald Searle, the movies depicted the exploits of groups of uncontrollable boarding-school girls, who drank, smoked and gambled.
Gilliat started in the cinema in 1935 as a cameraman with Gainsborough Pictures. While there, he helped make the Will Hay comedy Oh, Mr Porter!, the Crazy Gang’s Alf’s Button Afloat and the Hitchcock thriller The Lady Vanishes, which was written by his brother Sidney and Frank Launder, the three men often working as a team.
After the Second World War, Gilliat returned to the film industry. In 1949, as a location manager, he was charged with finding a desert island. He flew all over the world and eventually chose an island off Fiji, which became the setting of The Blue Lagoon (1949), a picture that told the story of a group of shipwrecked children.
Gilliat was associate producer on two St Trinian’s films – Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1957) and The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s (1960), both starring George Cole as the lovable rogue Flash Harry and Joyce Grenfell as a hapless police sergeant. In 1966, Gilliat was elevated to producer of The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery, in which Cole was joined by Frankie Howerd and Dora Bryan.
He also worked on two of Peter Sellers’ finest early comedies – The Smallest Show on Earth (1957), which shows Sellers, Margaret Rutherford and Bernard Miles working in a run-down cinema, and Only Two Can Play (1962), based on the Kingsley Amis novel That Uncertain Feeling.
The two television police series with which he was involved were Fabian of the Yard (1954-56), starring Bruce Seton as the real-life detective Robert Fabian, and Colonel March of Scotland Yard (1956-57), starring Boris Karloff.
Leslie Gilliat was born on May 29, 1917, and died on July 13, aged 96.
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.