Whenever anyone who knew Robert Hamer writes about him, they paint a portrait of a doomed figure whose early promise was cut short. He shares this quality with many of the characters in his work. Yet, with less than a dozen films to his credit, he still managed to achieve more than most of his contemporaries.
He was born in Kidderminster. His schooldays were successful and he gained a scholarship to Cambridge. He seemed set for great things but he was suspended for homosexual activities and his academic career never recovered. After graduation he started in the film industry as a clapper-boy at Gaumont.
He worked his way up through the ranks and by 1940 he was an editor at Ealing and also making script contributions. He was also married to aspiring actress Joan Holt. His big break as a director came with the Haunted Mirror section of Dead of Night. His next two films also starred Googie Withers but it was his fourth for which he will best be remembered: Kind Hearts and Coronets.
Despite his success, his gloomy world view was at odds with that of boss Michael Balcon and he found it difficult to come up with acceptable projects at Ealing. Outside Ealing things were worse as the 50s industry stopped taking risks and turned bland. Hamer's drinking, always a problem, got worse and his marriage disintegrated. His alcoholism finished him off in 1963 shortly after he got the push from writing additional dialogue for 55 Days at Peking.
With his first five films, Hamer created a stylish reflection of post-war disillusionment. The films he made after, though lesser works, usually have moments which make them worth watching.
|1944||Dead of Night (co.)|
|1945||Pink String and Sealing Wax|
|1947||It Always Rains on Sunday|
|1949||Kind Hearts and Coronets|
|1949||The Spider and the Fly|
|1952||The Long Memory|
|1954||To Paris With Love|
|1960||School for Scoundrels|
Robert Hamer at Amazon UK
Robert Hamer at Amazon US