Richard Lester Introduction

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Richard Lester 1932–

American director and television producer.

Lester's style often recalls the old days of slapstick and silent films. His most successful films combine a frenetic pace with visual gags.

Lester left for Europe at the age of twenty-two. While there, he wrote a musical and took it to England in hopes of selling it. His visit was timely, coinciding with the debut of commercial television. Lester not only sold the musical, but found a job as a television director. With Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, Lester wrote for The Goon Show, an improvisational comedy series. The collaboration of Lester, Sellers, and Milligan led to a short film, The Running, Jumping, and Standing Still Film. This rough, virtually unedited film was an outgrowth of The Goon Show.

Beginning in 1963, Lester made two films with the Beatles, A Hard Day's Night and Help! Here the surrealistic comedy of The Goon Show is combined with the Beatles's own unique brand of humor. However, a few critics contended that Lester indulged in visual tricks excessively.

Lester's style has varied from film to film. While How I Won the War is filled with black humor; Robin and Marian is a sentimental romance. Petulia is an incisive satire; Juggernaut is a suspenseful adventure film. In the words of Richard T. Jameson, the best of Lester's films have made "eloquence of frenzy." As Jameson writes: "From the snowfields of 'Ticket to Ride' in Help! to the out-of-focus shimmers of light and color framing the microcosmic Juggernaut, the extreme busyness of his films and frames has always been deployed against nothingness."