Gerry Hambling - Writer

Editor. Nationality: British. Born: Gerald Hambling, 1926. Career: Began working as assistant to Ralph Kemplen; worked in late 1950s and 1960s on British comedies; worked eight years as editor in advertising, 1968–1976; Member of British Guild of Film Editors and American Cinema Editors Guild. Awards: British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Film Award for Best Editing, and British Guild of Editors Award for Midnight Express , 1979; British Guild of Editors Award for Fame , 1980; BAFTA Film Award for Best Editing, and American Cinema Editors (A.C.E.) Award for Mississippi Burning , 1990; BAFTA Film Award for Best Editing for The Commitments , 1992; American Cinema Editors Career Achievement Award, 1998.

Films as Editor:


Dry Rot (Elvey)


The Whole Truth (Guillermin)


The Bulldog Breed (Asher); The Poacher's Daughter ( Sally's Irish Rogue ) (Pollock)


The Kitchen (Hill)


She'll Have to Go ( Maid for Murder ) (Asher)


A Stitch in Time (Asher)


The Early Bird (Asher); The Intelligence Men ( Spylarks ) (Asher)


Press for Time (Asher); That Riviera Touch (Owen)


The Magnificent Two (Owen)


The Adding Machine (Epstein)


Bugsy Malone (Parker)


Midnight Express (Parker)


Fame (Parker)


Heartaches (Shebib)


Pink Floyd The Wall (Parker); Shoot the Moon (Parker)


Another Country (Kanievska); Birdy (Parker)


Invitation to the Wedding (Brooks)


Absolute Beginners (Temple)


Angel Heart (Parker); Leonard Part 6 (Weiland)


Mississippi Burning (Parker)


Come See the Paradise (Parker)


The Commitments (Parker)


City of Joy ( La Cité de la joie ) (Joffé)


In the Name of the Father (Sheridan)


The Road to Wellville (Parker)


Evita (Parker); White Squall (Scott)


The Boxer (Sheridan)


Talk of Angels (Hamm)


Angela's Ashes (Parker)

Other Films:


Left Right and Center (Gilliat) (production designer)


Freud ( Freud: The Secret Passion ) (Huston) (dubbing editor)


The Servant (Losey) (sound editor)


On HAMBLING: articles—

O'Toole, Lawrence, Review of The Commitments , "Uncommitted," in Entertainment Weekly , 15 May 1992.

Young, L.L., " Angela's Ashes : The Novel, the Film, the Moviola," in Cinemeditor (Los Angeles), Fall 1999.

* * *

The film editing career of Gerry Hambling divides into two distinct periods, separated by eight years in which he worked as an editor of television commercials. During the 1950s and 1960s he worked with directors such as Robert Asher, editing archetypal British comedies, and sound editing for such notables as John Huston and Joseph Losey. Since the mid-1970s he has worked extensively with Alan Parker, adding his dynamic style to Parker's glossy visuals to create good-looking, high-impact movies such as Mississippi Burning and The Name of the Father. But the real strength of their partnership has been in musical films such as Bugsy Malone and Evita , where their background in advertising is perhaps most evident.

Hambling began working as assistant to Ralph Kemplen, who eventually helped him through his first solo project in 1956, but it was working with Robert Asher that he had the first real successes of a career that has lasted more than fifty years. He worked with Asher on seven films, notably on the Norman Wisdom vehicles, The Bulldog Breed , and A Stitch in Time. The films had some success at the time, and are remembered, in the UK at least, with nostalgia for a gentler age, but their simple slapstick humour has limited appeal.

By the late 1960s, the British film industry was in crisis, and many filmmaking personnel, including Hambling, found themselves out of work. Hambling moved into advertising, where he edited commercials. The experience forced him to reconsider his approach to his craft, since commercials rely much more heavily on visual impact and editing to carry their message than film. It was through his work in advertising that Hambling met Alan Parker, with whom he began working in 1971, and whose first feature film, Bugsy Malone marks the beginning of the second phase in Hambling's film career. Hambling has edited all of Parker's films, and admires the director for his ability to produce just enough footage for the editor to cover a scene with very little going to waste.

The collaboration with Parker has ranged widely, from the musical Bugsy Malone , through the partly animated Pink Floyd The Wall , to the grim Angel Heart and the strange story of The Road to Welville. They have been particularly successful with musicals, Hambling's talent for creating the illusion of movement proving useful where musical performances appear in films such as The Commitments , which Lawrence O'Toole called "a great swim for the eyeballs." Perhaps because of their experience in advertising, Parker's slick and striking images combine well with Hambling's intuitive sense of pace and rhythm, for example in the otherwise problematic Fame , and in the much trailed, but poorly received Evita. Hambling's work on Julian Temple's Absolute Beginners is also indicative of his ability to find interest in what was little more than a feature length music video.

Hambling has worked with other directors than Parker, most notably with Jim Sheridan on In the Name of the Father and The Boxer. With both Parker and Sheridan he has been involved with projects that deal with the political and religious divisions of Northern Ireland, and his eye for narrative structures suits the demands of dark, tense films such as these and Mississippi Burning , Parker's film about racism in America's southern states. More recently, Hambling worked with Parker on his adaptation of Frank McCourt's biography, Angela's Ashes , a difficult film from a technical point of view in that it required three actors to play the different stages of McCourt's childhood. But the close relationship between Hambling and Parker means that their films are now more like true collaborations than the usual understanding between director and editor.

An unassuming man, who shies away from publicity and self-promotion, Hambling still works on two old-fashioned Moviola editing machines rather than learning new digital techniques. As the human pace of Angela's Ashes suggests, Hambling's instinct for what audiences enjoy and understand in the visual structures of a film is practically infallible. In an industry increasingly obsessed with technology and special effects, Hambling, as L.L. Young points out, "is the finest [editing] system money can buy."

—Chris Routledge

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