Philip Saville, television director – obituary

Saville behind the scenes in  1960
Saville behind the scenes in 1960 Credit: Ltd/REX/Shutterstock

Philip Saville,who has died aged 86, directed two of the most notable television dramas of the 1980s, Alan Bleasdale’s bleakly compulsive series Boys from the Blackstuff (1982) and The Life and Loves of a She Devil (1986).

His technical bravura as a young director led the critic John Russell Taylor to anoint him “the Orson Welles of the small screen”, and by the 1970s and 1980s he was conjuring some of the most stylish and dazzling visual imagery on television. Filmed with recently introduced lightweight cameras, Saville’s Boys from the Blackstuff caught the punch-drunk spirit of the industrial north-west during the early Thatcher years with its highly stylised portrayal of a gang of out-of-work tarmac-layers in Liverpool. 

Saville had been parachuted in at the eleventh hour after the original director withdrew, and shot four of the five episodes on outside broadcast (OB) video, working on...


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