Very few scriptwriters ever get well known, and none get to be more identified with a film movement than those who directed the films. T.E.B. Clarke is the exception.
He was born in Watford, and his father was something in the City. Thomas Ernest Bennett Clarke was educated at Charterhouse, but needed to go to a crammer in order to get into Cambridge. A combination of idleness and restlessness meant he was asked to leave after a year, though not before he'd done a bit of strike breaking in the General Strike. In his later years he was ashamed of the strike breaking, but not of the academic record.
In order to avoid being forced into accountancy by his parents he made an abortive attempt to establish himself in Australia, but he was soon back in Britain and working as a journalist on the weekly Answers. With the advent of the war he became a special constable.
His journalistic connections got him a job at Ealing and he was soon writing bits of scripts for the company. He worked on several projects (including writing lyrics for the film Champagne Charlie) but it wasn't until Hue and Cry that he made his break through and wrote the first of the Ealing comedies.
Other writers also contributed to the Ealing Comedies, but none were more identified with the series than Clarke. He also wrote dramas too, and used his experience in the specials to create Sergeant George Dixon in The Blue Lamp. His crowning achievement was the script for The Lavender Hill Mob for which he won an Oscar.
As Ealing ran out of steam, so did Clarke's film career. Though some of his scripts got made, notably Sons and Lovers, he spent most of the later part of his career in development hell.
Some people criticise Clarke's work for representing the cosier side of Ealing. This misses the point of his work. He wasn't interested in satirizing society, he wanted to extol the community. For many critics this made his work faintly patronising, but if it was, audiences didn't seem to mind. At his best he had the knack of showing people at their most decent, and making it interesting.
|1944||For Those in Peril|
|1945||Dead of Night|
|1947||Hue and Cry|
|1948||Against the Wind|
|1949||Train of Events|
|1949||Passport to Pimlico|
|1950||The Blue Lamp|
|1951||The Lavender Hill Mob|
|1953||The Titfield Thunderbolt|
|1954||The Rainbow Jacket|
|1956||Who Done It?|
|1958||A Tale of Two Cities|
|1958||Law and Disorder|
|1960||Sons and Lovers|
|1966||A Man Could Get Killed|
|1978||A Hitch in Time|