A founding father of British filmmaking, Victor Saville created such classics as I Was a Spy, Evergreen, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, The Mortal Storm, A Woman’s Face, and Green Dolphin Street. Completed by Saville’s collaborator, Hollywood biographer Roy Moseley, in the years following Saville’s death in 1979, Evergreen: Victor Saville in His Own Words presents the esteemed filmmaker’s memories of the development of the film industry in England and the United States, from the silent screen to talkies,” from black-and-white to Technicolor, from the golden age of Hollywood to the rise of television.
Born in Birmingham in 1897, Saville started small in the film business after being discharged from his unit in World War I following an injury. Working first for a distribution company, Saville was exposed to the earliest British silent films as well as imported blockbusters” such as The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance by D. W. Griffith. In 1922 he ventured to Hollywood to persuade silent film star Betty Compson to star in his first film, Woman to Woman, ultimately made with the assistance of Alfred Hitchcock in his first film job as assistant art director. Perhaps Saville’s most winning partnership was with Jessie Matthews, whom he directed in The Good Companions, Evergreen, First a Girl, and Friday the Thirteenth. He came to Hollywood permanently in 1941 when Louis B. Mayer invited him to work for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, whereupon Saville broke MGM’s questionable ties with Berlin, at a shocking time, by making The Mortal Storm. His memoirprovides an intimate and detailed look at Saville’s long relationships with studio moguls Mayer and Alexander Korda and his work with an impressive list of film stars, including Robert Donat, Greer Garson, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Hedy Lamarr, Margaret Sullavan, Ingrid Bergman, Jeanette MacDonald, Lana Turner, Deborah Kerr, Elizabeth Taylor, Errol Flynn, and Paul Newman. Saville’s circle of personal friends in Hollywood, where he lived with his wife, Phoebe, from 1941 to 1955, included the Marx brothers, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, and George Burns.
With Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Balcon, and Herbert Wilcox, Saville was a cornerstone of the early British film industry. Owing to Roy Moseley’s expert crafting, Evergreen: Victor Saville in His Own Words takes the reader behind the scenes of film’s golden age to reveal the tensions and power plays involved in studio filmmaking and struggles with stars, studios, and, many times, film censors, as well as the intricacies of early production, direction, and distribution methods.