Philip Saville

Philip Saville was a British director, screenwriter and former actor whose career lasted half a century. The British Film Institute's Screenonline website described Saville as "one of Britain's most prolific and pioneering television and film directors". His work included 45 contributions to Armchair Theatre and he won two Best Drama Series BAFTAs for Boys from the Blackstuff and The Life and Loves of a She-Devil.

Early life

Saville was born in London in 1930. He studied science at London University and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His National Service in the Royal Corps of Signals was ended by his discharge after he sustained a serious knee injury involving an armoured vehicle.


From the 1950s, Saville worked in television as a director working on plays such as Harold Pinter's A Night Out for ABC's Armchair Theatre anthology series. He directed over 40 plays for Armchair Theatre and helped pioneer the innovative visual style it became known for, including rapid and intricate camera movements during the often live productions. The critic John Russell Taylor, however, wrote that Saville had submerged the romance "Duel for Love" "under intricate camerawork of exquisite beauty and complete irrelevance".
Saville also directed Madhouse on Castle Street for the BBC, an example "of his interest in psychological states and subjective viewpoints", according to Oliver Wake. The production was the first acting appearance of the folk singer Bob Dylan, whom Saville had flown over specifically to take part in the play. Saville's production of Hamlet at Elsinore for the BBC pioneered the use of videotape for location recording. An anonymous reviewer in The Times wrote that Saville "while creating handsome pictures, did not allow the setting to distract him from the business of the play". He also worked on an episode of Out of the Unknown, a version of the E.M. Forster short story "The Machine Stops" in this period. This won the main prize at the 1967 Trieste international science fiction film festival.

Later career

Saville's significant later work includes Boys from the Blackstuff and The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, which both won BAFTAs for Best Drama Series.
For the cinema, Saville directed The Fruit Machine, Metroland and The Gospel of John.
He also directed a masterclass studio in London specialising in dramatic improvisation. Saville's documentary on Harold Pinter Pinter's Progress for Sundance international television channels and UK's Sky Arts features numerous interviews with associates of the Nobel Prize–winning playwright.

Personal life

Saville was married to the actress, film and theatre director Jane Arden from 1947; the couple had two sons, Sebastian and Dominic, but separated in the mid-1960s, although they did not divorce. Arden died in 1982. He also had a daughter, Elizabeth Saville from another relationship. In the 1960s, Saville, while married, had an affair with the artist Pauline Boty, whom he had met towards the end of her student days and who had worked for him. Their affair is said to have inspired the film Darling. He also had an eight-year relationship with actress Diana Rigg in the same period.
From the 1960s onward, he lived in the former home of the artist Augustus John in St John's Wood, London.
Philip Saville married his second wife, Nina Francis in 1987, and they had a son, Waldo Saville. His wife Nina was at his bedside when he died.