15 April 2015
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Paul Almond, the Canadian director behind the groundbreaking Seven Up! documentary, about a group of British children, has died aged 83.
The 1964 television documentary later gave birth to the Up series, which has followed the children into middle age at seven year intervals.
Almond, who helped come up with the original idea before Michael Apted took it on, died on Thursday in California.
His son Matthew said the cause was complications of a recent heart attack.
Seven Up! examined the British class system through the eyes of 14 British seven-year-olds from a range of different socio-economic groups.
The 40 minute black and white film featured Almond asking 10 boys and four girls a series of questions about family, class, religion, happiness, love and their adult aspirations.
He and a Granada producer Tim Hewat came up with the idea in an English pub where they had been chatting about the class system.
Hewat is said to have uttered the quote: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” supposedly originated by the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius Loyola.
The film was originally intended as a one-off and Almond returned to Canada where he directed many films and TV programmes, as well as writing novels.
Apted – who was a researcher on the original film – decided to revisit the children every seven years, and went on to direct 7 Plus Seven (1970) and 21 Up (1977) right through the the most recent film 56 Up in 2012, seeing the children through jobs, marriage and parenthood.
They included Cockney lad Tony, who became a jockey and then a cab driver; Suzy, a girl from a privileged background who became a wife and mother; Nicholas, a farm boy who is now a scientist; and Neil, from Liverpool, who endured homelessness as a young man.
Back in Canada, Almond wrote and directed a trilogy of films on mystical themes, called Isabel, Act of the Heart and Journey – starring his second wife Genevieve Bujold to whom he was married to from 1967 to 1973.
He had also directed a version of Macbeth starring a young Sean Connery for Canadian television in 1961 and episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
The director – who studied at Oxford University – also helmed several British TV programmes for the BBC, Granada and other studios.
Later in life he became the author of the Alford Saga, eight historical novels based on the lives of his pioneer ancestors in Canada, including The Deserter and The Survivor.
He was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003 but retired to Malibu, California.
Almond is survived by his third wife Joan and his son, three stepsons, a stepdaughter and eight grandchildren.
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