Gavin Millar obituary | Movies

Gavin Millar, who died at 84 of a brain tumor, was a pioneer of television art journalism in the 1960s and 1970s before moving on to the work of Alan Bennett, Dennis Potter and Victoria Wood.

His richest film was Dreamchild (1985), written by Potter, in which elderly Alice Liddell (Coral Brown) reflects on her young relationship with Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, who used her as inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In addition to shaping the complex performance of Brown in her last onscreen appearance, and Ian Holm as the tormented Dodgson, Millar negotiated the color shifts and moral ambiguities that might have angered a less human or sensitive filmmaker.

Gavin Millar has directed works by Dennis Potter, Alan Bennett, and Victoria Wood.
Gavin Millar has directed works by Dennis Potter, Alan Bennett, and Victoria Wood. Photography: Catherine Shakespeare Lane

“I don’t think there is any question other than that [Dodgson] He was in love with Alice,” he said at the time, “and in every sexual way possible, but without any physical contact… He transferred all that passion and affection to his books, and what I finally came to understand was that, whatever the source of this love was expressed in a beautiful way.” “.

The sudden arrival of Alice’s adult life leads to characters from the book, presented by Jim Henson’s workshop to creatures as filthy and menacing dolls, further complicating the mood. Millar insisted that the design should take John Tenniel’s original illustrations as a starting point, but that the result should look “as fierce as we felt an old lady’s nightmares would have made.” Like the movie itself, the dolls were “realistic and not whimsical.” That went to Brown’s performance. Millar described Brown as “hard as nails but full of emotion”.

Dreamchild has been very well received. Andrew Sarris in The Village Voice described it as “exciting and inspiring”, and named it one of the best films of the year.

Millar had previously directed an earlier pottery screenplay, Cream in My Coffee, in 1980. That TV drama, which starred Peggy Ashcroft and Lionel Jeffries as an unhappy married couple revisiting a former holiday scene, won a Prix Italia. He directed Bennett’s Intensive Care (1982) as well as one of the writer’s monologues in the second series of Talking Heads (1998), in which Julie Walters played the wife of a suspected killer.

Among Millar’s most widely viewed works have been his collaborations with Victoria Wood: Pat and Margaret (1994), with Wood and Walters as separate sisters who are reunited on a TV show, and the award-winning double drama Wartime Housewife, 49 (2006).

Gavin was born in Clydebank, near Glasgow, the son of Rita (née Osborne) and Tom Millar, who both worked at the local Singer sewing machine factory. The family moved to the Midlands when Gavin was nine; He was educated in Birmingham at the King Edward School. After completing his national service in the RAF, he studied English at Christchurch, Oxford (1958-1961).

There Stefano played Melvin Bragg in a production of The Tempest whom he later described as “fairly neglected”. While on a postgraduate film course at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, in 1962, he met Sylvia Lynn after seeing her in a student production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Oxford, and they married in 1966.

Millar began working in television in 1963 on BBC series including This Week Was It and Current Affairs Tonight. He directed music and arts programs from the mid-1960s, added a section to the 1968 edition of director Karel Resch’s book Film Editing Technique, and was film critic for Listener magazine from 1970 to 1984; He has also presented or directed film programs including The First Picture Show, Talking Pictures and Arena Cinema. These documentaries brought him into contact with many authors of world cinema, including Woody Allen, Federico Fellini, Jean Renoir and François Truffaut.

Victoria Wood in Housewife, 49 (2006).
Victoria Wood in Housewife, 49 (2006). Photo: ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

His ubiquity in the art scene has led him to become a target of parodies. The second series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, broadcast in 1970, featured an arrogant critic, played by John Cleese, named “Gavin Millaaarrrr” – an absurdly extended “R” – which refers to “smart people like me who talk loudly in restaurants” . This was a constant source of amusement for Millar and his family. His daughter Isabel said the depiction chimed with her father’s “self-parody of the Oxford thinker. As a working-class Scotsman, he had a certain ironic distance from that ‘upscale English’ man he had become”. The sketch also appeared on the 1971 album Monty Python’s Other Record.

Together with Dreamchild, Millar made two more films for the cinema: a warm and charming film by Roald Dahl Danny, World Champion (1989), starring Jeremy Irons and his 11-year-old son Samuel, written by Ian. Thriller Complicity (2000) directed by Millar, which followed the popular BBC four-part version of Banks’ The Crow Road (1996). Other notable television works include Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop (1987) to London Weekend Television. Millar won an ACE Award for Tidy Endings (1988), based on Harvey Fierstein’s play Safe Sex, with Fierstein as a man who befriends his late lover’s widow, played by Stockard Channing.

He also directed Denholm Elliott as John le Carré’s spy hero George Smiley in The Murder of Quality (1991) and Kristen Scott Thomas in the three-part drama Belle Époque (1995), as well as episodes of The Ruth Rendell Mysteries (1996) and Foil’s War (2004). -2007). His last film, Albert Schweitzer (2009), starred Jeron Krabi as a theologian and physician later in his life.

Sylvia died in 2012, and is survived by their five children, James, Tommy, Duncan, Kirsty and Isabel, and six grandchildren, Florence, Martha, Louis, Iris, Arwen and Gavin.

Gavin Osborne Millar, film and television director, born January 11, 1938; He passed away on April 20, 2022

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