I tried to write something a couple of days ago about the passing of director Ronald Neame, but it wouldn’t come. Not with the right tone of respect and regret, I mean. Because, frankly, his films persuaded me long ago that Neame was at best a mediocre talent. I hear his name and I think “middling,” “congenial,” “status-quo lazy.”
And yet he nearly lived to be 100 while at the same time drinking like a fish, and for that he has my respect. Not that I’d consider following in his footsteps.
I’m referring to a 2006 interview in which Neame said that the secret to his longevity is “two large vodkas at lunchtime and three large scotches in the evening. All my doctors have said to me, ‘Ronnie, if you would drink less, you’d live a lot longer.’ But they’re all dead, and I’m still here at 95.”
Neame’s favorable rep rests upon his having made two moderately respectable films with Alec Guiness, The Horse’s Mouth and Tunes of Glory, along with the likably so-so-ish The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie with Maggie Smith .
In my view those films were negatively counter-balanced and then some by The Poseidon Adventure — a rank whore job — as well as Gambit, Mr. Moses, Meteor, Prudence and Pill, Hopscotch, First Monday in October and all the rest.