Forgotten British film producer is subject of award-winning book

Issue date: 29 April 2015

'The Man Who Got Carter' book cover

The Man Who Got Carter: Michael Klinger, Independent Production and the British Film Industry, 1960-1980 (London: I.B. Tauris, November 2013) – Andrew Spicer and A.T. McKenna

A book on Michael Klinger, the most successful independent producer in the British film industry over a twenty year period from 1960 to 1980, has won the top award in the 2015 British Association for Film, Television and Screen Studies (BAFTSS) Best Book Prize.

Professor Andrew Spicer, a cultural historian from UWE Bristol, and research associate Dr Anthony McKenna, co-authored the book.

The prize was awarded on 16 April 2015 at the Lord Mayor's Parlour, Manchester Town Hall. It was part of BAFTSS's third annual conference that took place at Manchester Metropolitan University. The Association's judges were impressed by a book that opened out new directions for the study of film by focusing on the neglected role of the producer: 'Director-focused and star-focused more often than not, scholars don't often think about the producer. This is a detailed archive based history on Michael Klinger, a key producer, who didn't just produce Get Carter of course, but also Polanski's early films, Repulsion and Cul de sac.' They also praised the book in which 'scrupulous archival research is transformed into clear authoritative prose and a sweeping sense of narrative. It's original, uncluttered, fresh and important.'

The book is one of the outcomes of an AHRC funded project which has created a valuable resource for scholars through establishing a permanent archive with a catalogue, key documents and interviews accessible online. The Man who Got Carter will restore Klinger to his rightful place as an important figure in post-war British cinema. It provides an in-depth understanding of the varied functions of the film producer whose role has been misunderstood and neglected within Film Studies.

An archive of documents donated to UWE Bristol by Tony Klinger, the producer's son, provided unique material on which the book is based. The donated documents included annotated bound scripts for films such as Baby Love (1968) and Gold (1974) and as well as draft screenplays, contracts, distribution rights, publicity material and production deals; these documents now form part of the permanent archive.

Professor Andrew Spicer explains, “During the 1970s, a period of economic decline, admissions to cinemas were down, there was a lack of public investment in the film industry and the Hollywood studios had ceased to invest in British films. Despite this, Michael Klinger made 13 successful films - he was the only consistently profitable indigenous producer in this decade - yet he has received almost no recognition or critical acclaim. Film Studies tends to focus on the director as having the main creative role, yet in the case of the producer, Michael Klinger, he was involved in all aspects of film-making, including casting, the writing of the screenplay and editing.”

Over his whole career, Michael Klinger was responsible for 32 films, including classics such as Repulsion (1965) and Get Carter (1971). Despite working with many famous figures – actors Michael Caine, Peter Finch, Lee Marvin, Roger Moore, Mickey Rooney and Susannah York, directors Claude Chabrol, Mike Hodges and Roman Polanski, and author Wilbur Smith – Klinger's contribution to British cinema has been almost entirely ignored.

This definitive study, largely based on Klinger's previously unseen personal papers, examines his origins in the Sixties' Soho sexploitation cinema and 'shockumentaries' through to major international productions including Shout at the Devil (1976). Klinger deftly combined commercial product – the hugely popular 'Confessions' series (1974-78) – with artistic, experimental cinema that nurtured young talent, including Polanski and Hodges, Peter Collinson, Alastair Reid, Linda Hayden and Moshe Mizrahi, the Israeli director of Rachel's Man (1975). Klinger's career is contextualised through a reassessment of the British film industry during a period of unprecedented change and volatility; the importance of his Jewishness; and a detailed analysis of the essential but often misunderstood role played by the producer.

Professor Andrew Spicer has written numerous books including a study of Sydney Box, a successful film producer in the 40s and 50s, which was published in the British Film Makers series in 2006. Dr McKenna now teaches at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China.

The Man Who Got Carter

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