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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert Hamer (31 March 1911 – 4 December 1963) was a British film director and screenwriter best known for the 1949 black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets.


Hamer was born at 24 Chester Road, Kidderminster, along with his twin Barbara, the son of Owen Dyke Hamer, a bank clerk, and his wife, Annie Grace Brickell.[1] He was educated at Rossall School, an independent school for boys near the town of Fleetwood in Lancashire, and won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he read the Economics tripos.[1][2] Although claims have since been made that he was sent down (expelled),[3] with several sources suggesting that he was suspended for homosexual activities,[4][5] he did in fact graduate with a third-class degree in 1933.[1][6] The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that Hamer originally intended to join the Treasury as an economist or mathematician until scuppered by his poor academic performance, which he later jokingly put down to a combination of "the proximity of Newmarket Heath [racecourse] to Cambridge and the existence in Cambridge of five cinemas changing programmes twice weekly".[1]

Hamer began his film career in 1934 as a cutting room assistant, and from 1935 worked as a film editor involved with such films as Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939) co-produced by Charles Laughton. At the end of the 1930s, he worked on documentaries for the GPO Film Unit.[7] When his boss at the GPO, Alberto Cavalcanti, moved to Ealing Studios, Hamer was invited to join him there. He gained some experience as a director by substituting for colleagues and contributed the 'haunted mirror' sequence to Dead of Night (1945). He followed this with the three Ealing films under his own name for which he is best remembered: Pink String and Sealing Wax (1946), It Always Rains on Sunday (1947),[8] both featuring Googie Withers, and Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), with Dennis Price and Alec Guinness.

Hamer was an alcoholic, who by the time of his last film as director, School for Scoundrels (1960) was "often battling terrifying DT hallucinations" (i.e. alcohol withdrawal symptoms, occurring only in patients with a history of alcoholism).[8] BFI Screenonline writes that Hamer was "a recovering alcoholic" and that "he fell off the wagon during production [of School For Scoundrels], was sacked on the spot ... and would never work in the industry again." In fact, although he never directed again, he did contribute to two more film screenplays before he died.

Hamer was also homosexual[citation needed] in an era when it was illegal in the UK. He died of pneumonia at the age of 52 at St Thomas's Hospital in London, and is buried at Llandegley. Both of his parents survived him.[1]

According to film critic David Thomson, Hamer's career "now looks like the most serious miscarriage of talent in the postwar British cinema".[9]



  1. ^ a b c d e Murphy, Robert. "Hamer, Robert James". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/40384. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Ephraim Katz The Macmillan International Film Encyclopedia, 1998, London: Macmillan, p. 585
  3. ^ "Hamer, Robert (1911-63)", BFI screenonline website
  4. ^ Kidderminster Civic Society Newsletter, Another Famous Son of Kidderminster, February 2011, p. 1. The newsletter does, however, indicate that he returned to his studies.
  5. ^ Charles Drazin, The Finest Years: British Cinema of the 1940s (London: Andre Deutsch, 1998), p. 72. ISBN 0233989854
  6. ^ 'University News', Times, 19 June 1933, p. 8.
  7. ^ Brian McFarlane The Encyclopedia of British Film, 2003, London: BFI/Methuen, p. 281-82
  8. ^ a b John Patterson "There's more to Robert Hamer than Kind Hearts And Coronets", The Guardian, 19 October 2012
  9. ^ David Thomson The New Biographical Dictionary of Cinema, 2002, London: Little, Brown, p. 367

External links

This page was last edited on 23 November 2021, at 23:06
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