David Edward Leslie Hemmings (18 November 1941 – 3 December
2003) was an English film, theatre and television actor, as well as a
film and television director and producer. He founded also the
Hemdale Film Corporation
Hemdale Film Corporation in 1967.
He is noted for his role as the photographer in the drama
Blowup (1966), directed by Michelangelo
Antonioni. Early in his career, Hemmings was a boy soprano appearing
in operatic roles.
1.1 Early life
1.2 Benjamin Britten
1.3 Child actor
1.4 Teen idol
1.5 Blow Up and stardom
1.7 Character actor
Australia and New Zealand
1.10 Later years
4 Personal life
6 Filmography and performances in television
8 See also
10 External links
David Hemmings was born in Guildford, in the county of Surrey, to a
biscuit salesman father.
His education at Alleyn's School, Glyn Grammar School in
Ewell and the
Arts Educational School, led him to start his career performing as a
boy soprano in several works by the composer Benjamin Britten, who
formed a close friendship with him at this time. Most notably,
Hemmings created the role of Miles in Britten's chamber opera Turn of
the Screw (1954). His intimate, yet innocent, relationship with
Britten is described in John Bridcut's book
Britten's Children (2006).
Although many commentators identified Britten's relationship with
Hemmings as based on an infatuation, throughout his life, Hemmings
maintained categorically that Britten's conduct with him was beyond
reproach at all times. Hemmings had earlier played the title role in
The Little Sweep
The Little Sweep (1952), which was part of Britten's Let's
Make An Opera! children's production.
Britten's interest in Hemmings ceased very abruptly, from the moment
his voice broke, which occurred unexpectedly while singing the aria
"Malo" during a performance of The Turn of the Screw in 1956 in Paris.
Britten was furious, waved Hemmings away, and never had any further
contact with him.
Hemmings then moved on to acting and directing in film. He made his
first film appearance in the drama film
The Rainbow Jacket
The Rainbow Jacket (1954). He
could also be seen in Saint Joan (1957).
Hemmings had bigger roles in
Five Clues to Fortune (1957), The Heart
Within (1957), and
No Trees in the Street
No Trees in the Street (1957), directed by J. Lee
Thompson. He could also be seen in Men of Tomorrow (1959), In the Wake
of a Stranger (1959),
Sink the Bismarck!
Sink the Bismarck! (1960), and The Wind of
Hemmings began to be known for playing young men in The Painted Smile
(1962), Some People (1962).
Hemmings' first lead role was in the low budget teen musical Live It
Up! (1963). He went back to support roles for Michael Winner's The
System (1964), then starred in a sequel to Live It Up!, Be My Guest
Hemmings had a good role in Two Left Feet (1965) with Michael
Blow Up and stardom
Hemmings became a star when cast in the lead of
Blowup (1966). It was
directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, who detested the "Method" way of
acting. He sought to find a fresh young face for the lead in the
film. He found Hemmings, at the time acting in small stage theatre
in London, although at their first meeting, Antonioni told Hemmings,
"you look wrong. You're too young". Hemmings was offered the part
of the protagonist after actor
Sean Connery turned the role down
because Antonioni would not show him the full script, but only a
seven-page treatment stored in a cigarette packet.
The resulting film was a critical and commercial sensation for MGM
which financed it, helping turn Hemmings and co-star Vanessa Redgrave
He received an offer from
Warner Bros to play
Mordred in the expensive
musical Camelot (1967). He had another superb support part in the
Eye of the Devil
Eye of the Devil (1966), playing the brother of Sharon Tate.
Hemmings was then cast as
Louis Nolan in the expensive epic The Charge
of the Light Brigade (1968), which, like Camelot, was widely seen but
failed to recoup its cost.
Around 1967, Hemmings was briefly considered for the role of Alex in a
planned film version of Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange
(1962), which was to be based on a screen treatment by satirist Terry
Southern and British photographer Michael Cooper. Cooper and the
Rolling Stones were reportedly upset by the move and it was decided to
return to the original plan in which Mick Jagger, the lead vocalist of
the Rolling Stones, would play Alex, with the rest of the Stones as
his droog gang; the production was shelved after Britain's chief
censor, the Lord Chamberlain, indicated that he would not permit it to
Hemmings co-starred with
Richard Attenborough in a comedy, Only When I
Larf (1968), then was the sole star of an anti-war film, The Long
Day's Dying (1968). Both films flopped.
More popular was Barbarella (1968) in which Hemmings had a key role.
He played the lead in two period films for MGM: a comedy, The Best
House in London (1969), and the historical epic, Alfred the Great
(1969), where Hemmings had the title role. Neither film did well at
the box office, with Alfred the Great being a notable flop.
Hemmings managed to be cast in some star roles: The Walking Stick
(1970) with Samantha Eggar, for MGM;
Fragment of Fear
Fragment of Fear (1970), a
thriller; and Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971).
Hemmings went to Hollywood to play a supporting role in The Love
Machine (1971). Back in Britain he starred in a horror film, Voices
Hemmings directed the drama film
The 14 (1973), which won the Silver
Bear at the 23rd Berlin International Film Festival.
He went to Spain to star in Lola (1974), and in Britain supported
Richard Harris in Juggernaut (1974).
Hemmings appeared in the famous Italian giallo film Profondo Rosso
(also known as
Deep Red or The Hatchet Murders) (1975) directed by
Dario Argento. Back in England he supported
Anthony Newley in Mister
From this point on, Hemmings was basically a supporting actor. In 1977
Hemmings appeared as Eddy in the film Islands in the Stream, an
adaptation of Hemingway's novel of the same name, starring George C
He had support roles in The Squeeze (1977), The Prince and the Pauper
The Heroin Busters
The Heroin Busters (1977),
The Disappearance (1977), Squadra
Blood Relatives (1978) and Power Play (1978).
David Bowie and
Marlene Dietrich in the drama film
Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo (also known as Just a Gigolo) (1978).
The film was poorly received, with Bowie describing it as "my 32 Elvis
Presley films rolled into one".
He had a support role in
Murder by Decree
Murder by Decree (1979).
Australia and New Zealand
Hemmings received an offer to play a supporting role in an Australian
vampire film, Thirst (1979), produced by Anthony I. Ginnane. He
starred in a TV movie,
Charlie Muffin (1979), then returned to
Australia to feature in Ginnane's Harlequin (1980).
Hemmings then received an offer from Ginnane to direct the Australian
horror film The Survivor (1981), based on James Herbert's 1976 novel
of the same name, starring
Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter. Ginnane
liked Hemmings' work enough to let him direct Race for the Yankee
Zephyr (1981), shot in New Zealand.
While in New Zealand Hemmings played roles in Ginnane's Prisoners
(1981) and Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1982).
Hemmings relocated to Hollywood. He played supporting roles in Man,
Woman and Child (1983) and
He also worked extensively as a director on television programmes
including the action-adventure drama series
Quantum Leap (e.g., the
series premiere); the crime series
Magnum, P.I. (in which he also
played characters in several episodes); and two action-adventure
The A-Team and
Airwolf (in which he also played the role of
Doctor Charles Henry Moffet, twisted creator of Airwolf, in the pilot
and the second-season episode "Moffett's Ghost" – a
typographical error by the studio's titles unit). He once joked,
"People thought I was dead. But I wasn't. I was just directing The
Hemmings also directed the puzzle-contest video Money Hunt: The
Mystery of the Missing Link (1984). He directed the television film
The Key to Rebecca (1985), an adaptation of Ken Follett's 1980 novel
of the same name. He also briefly served as a producer on the NBC
crime-drama television series Stingray.
He directed the drama film Dark Horse (1992) and as an actor returned
to the voyeuristic preoccupations of his
Blowup character with a plum
part as the Big Brother-esque villain in the season-three opener for
the television horror anthology series Tales From the Crypt.
In later years, he had roles including appearing as Cassius in the
historical epic film Gladiator (2000), with Russell Crowe, as well as
appearing in the drama film Last Orders (2001) and the spy film Spy
Game (2001). He appeared as Mr. Schermerhorn in the historical film
Gangs of New York (2002), directed by Martin Scorsese.
His final screen appearances included the science-fiction action film,
Equilibrium (2002), shortly before his death, as well the superhero
film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), with Sean Connery
and as Frank Sinatra's attorney in the 2003 Australian film The Night
We Called It a Day, a comedy based on true events. He also appeared in
the horror film Blessed (2004) with Heather Graham, which was
dedicated to him in his memory after a fatal heart attack while on
In 1967, Hemmings recorded a pop single, "Back Street Mirror" (written
by Gene Clark), and a studio album,
David Hemmings Happens, in Los
Angeles. The album featured instrumental backing by several members of
the Byrds, and was produced by Byrds' mentor Jim Dickson.
In the 1970s, he was jointly credited with former
Harry Vanda and George Young as a co-composer of the song "Pasadena".
The original 1973 recording of this song – the first Australian hit
John Paul Young
John Paul Young – was produced by Simon Napier-Bell, in
whose SNB Records label Hemmings was a partner at the time.
Hemmings also later provided the narration for Rick Wakeman's
progressive-rock album Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974) –
an adaptation of Jules Verne's science-fiction novel A Journey to the
Center of the Earth (1864) – which was recorded live.
He starred as
Bertie Wooster in the short-lived Andrew Lloyd Webber
musical, Jeeves (1975).
After his death his autobiography, Blow Up... and Other
Exaggerations – The Autobiography of David Hemmings, was
published in 2004.
He was married four times: to Genista Ouvry (1960–1967), actress
Gayle Hunnicutt (1968–1975), Prudence de Casembroot (1976–1997),
and Lucy Williams (2002 to his death). Hemmings met Hunnicutt
while he was in America promoting Blowup, by which time his marriage
to Ouvry was over. At their outdoor wedding,
Henry Mancini conducted
an orchestra and the
Mamas and the Papas
Mamas and the Papas performed next to a swimming
pool filled with doves dyed puce. Of his relationship with
Hunnicutt, Hemmings remarked, "We were the poor man's Taylor and
Burton". Their marriage ended when Hunnicutt discovered Hemmings'
affairs with actress Samantha Eggar, his co-star in The Walking Stick
(1970), and his secretary Prudence de Casembroot. During his
subsequent marriage to Prudence de Casembroot, Hemmings continued his
infidelities with, among others, Tessa Dahl, the daughter of Roald
Dahl. Six children came from the four marriages.
Hemmings was an active supporter of liberal causes, and spoke at a
number of meetings on behalf of the Liberal Party.
Hemmings died at age 62 of a heart attack, in Bucharest, Romania, on
the film set of Blessed (working title: Samantha's Child) after he had
performed his scenes for the day.
A funeral service was held for him at St. Peter's Church, in the town
Calne in the county of Wiltshire, where he had resided in his final
years. His body was buried in the church's graveyard.
Filmography and performances in television
The Rainbow Jacket
The Rainbow Jacket (1954)
Saint Joan (1957) as Minor Role
Five Clues to Fortune (1957) as Ken
The Heart Within (1957) as Danny Willard
No Trees in the Street
No Trees in the Street (1959) as Kenny
Men of Tomorrow (1959) as Ted
In the Wake of a Stranger
In the Wake of a Stranger (1959) as Schoolboy
Sink the Bismarck!
Sink the Bismarck! (1960) as Seaman on Ark Royal
The Wind of Change (1961) as Ginger
Play It Cool (1962)
The Painted Smile
The Painted Smile (1962) as Roy
Some People (1962) as Bert
West 11 (1963) as Bit Role
Live It Up! (1963) as Dave Martin
The System (1964) as David
Be My Guest (1965) as Dave Martin
Two Left Feet (1965) as Brian
Out Of The Unknown - The Counterfeit Man (1965) as Westcott
Blowup (1966) as Thomas
Camelot (1967) as Mordred
Eye of the Devil
Eye of the Devil (1967) as Christian de Caray
The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) as Captain Nolan
Only When I Larf (1968) as Bob
The Long Day's Dying
The Long Day's Dying (1968) as John
Barbarella (1968) as Dildano
The Best House in London
The Best House in London (1969) as Benjamin Oakes / Walter Leybourne
Alfred The Great (1969) as Alfred
The Walking Stick
The Walking Stick (1970) as Leigh Hartley
Fragment of Fear
Fragment of Fear (1970) as Tim Brett
Simon, Simon (1970) as Man in car with posters
Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971) as John Ebony
The Love Machine (1971) as Jerry Nelson
Voices (1973) as Robert
Lola (1974) as Juan
Juggernaut (1974) as Charlie Braddock
Deep Red (1975) as Marcus Daly
Mister Quilp (aka The Old Curiosity Shop; 1975) as Richard Swiveller
Islands in the Stream (1977) as Eddy
The Squeeze (1977) as Keith
The Prince and the Pauper (US title Crossed Swords) (1977) as Hugh
La via della droga
La via della droga (1977) as Hamilton
The Disappearance (1977) as Edward
Squadra antitruffa (1977) as Robert Clayton
Blood Relatives (1978) as Armstrong
Power Play (1978) as Colonel Narriman
Just a Gigolo (1978) as Captain Hermann Kraft
Murder by Decree
Murder by Decree (1979) as Inspector Foxborough
Thirst (1979) as Dr. Fraser
Charlie Muffin (US title: A Deadly Game) (1979) as Charlie Muffin
Harlequin (1980) as Nick Rast
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1980) as Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Edward Hyde
Swan Lake (1981) as Rothbart (voice)
Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1981) as Insp. Bruce Hutton
Prisoners (1981) as Wilkens
Man, Woman and Child (1983) as Gavin Wilson
Airwolf (1984) (television film and two subsequent episodes) as Dr.
Charles Henry Moffett
The Rainbow (1989) as Uncle Henry
Northern Exposure (1992) as Viktor Bobrov
Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1995) as Durham
Gladiator (2000) as Cassius
Last Orders (2001) as Lenny
Spy Game (2001) as Harry Duncan
Mean Machine (2001) as Governor
Waking the Dead: "Deathwatch" (2002) (television episode in 2 parts)
as Ex-DCI Malcolm Finlay
Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice (2002) (direct-to-video) as Martin Fox
Equilibrium (2002) as Proctor
Gangs of New York (2002) as Mr. Schermerhorn
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) as Nigel
The Night We Called It a Day (2003) (a.k.a. All the Way) as Mickey
Blessed (2004) as Earl Sydney
Romantik (2007) as Dr. Sadun (final film role)
The 14 (1973)
Just a Gigolo (1978)
Race for the Yankee Zephyr
Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981)
The Survivor (1981)
The Key to Rebecca (1985)
Down Delaware Road (1988)
Dark Horse (1992)
Passport to Murder (1993)
Christmas Reunion (1994)
Lone Justice: Showdown at Plum Creek (1996)
Hemmings, David (2004). Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations –
The Autobiography of David Hemmings. Robson Books (London).
List of British actors and actresses
List of British film directors
List of film producers
List of singer-songwriters
^ Erickson, Hal. "
David Hemmings – About This Person".
The New York Times). Retrieved 6 February 2012.
^ Your Face Here: British Cult Movies Since the Sixties, Alf Catterall
and Simon Wells, Fourth Estate, 2002, pg 30
^ John Bridcut, "The end of innocence", extract from Britten's
Children, The Independent, 5 June 2006. Retrieved 30 March 2014
^ Tomasulo, Frank P. (2004). "The Sounds of Silence: Modernist Acting
in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up", in More Than a Method: Trends
and Traditions in Contemporary Film Performance, edited by Cynthia
Baron, Diane Carson and Frank P. Tomasulo. Detroit MI: Wayne State
University Press. pp. 94–98. ISBN 978-0814330791.
^ a b Pomerance, Murray (2011). Michelangelo Red Antonioni Blue: Eight
Reflections on Cinema. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of
California Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-0520266865.
^ Bray, Christopher (2010). Sean Connery: The measure of a man.
London: Faber & Faber. p. 128.
^ Hill, Lee (2002). A Grand Guy – The Art and Life of Terry
Southern. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 149.
^ "Berlinale 1973: Prize Winners". Berlin International Film Festival.
Retrieved 1 July 2010.
^ MacKinnon, Angus (13 September 1980). "The Future Isn't What It Used
to Be". NME. pp. 32–37.
^ a b c d "David Hemmings". The Telegraph. 5 Dec 2003. Retrieved 13
^ Staff (5 December 2003). "David Hemmings, 62, a Film Star in
'Blowup'". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to David Hemmings.
David Hemmings at AllMovie
David Hemmings at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
David Hemmings at Find a Grave
David Hemmings on IMDb
David Hemmings at the TCM Movie Database
Works by or about
David Hemmings in libraries (
A collection of pictures taken on the set of
Blowup at the Wayback
Machine (archived 5 April 2004)
Pulleine, Tim (5 December 2005). "
David Hemmings – Gifted Actor,
Director and Producer Who Successfully Outgrew His Iconic '60s Image
in Antonioni's Blow Up". The Guardian
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