LONDON — Film director Leslie Arliss, whose period melodramas established the careers of such British stars as James Mason, Stewart Granger and Margaret Lockwood, has died, his family reported over the weekend.
Arliss, whose costume pageants of romance and adventure such as "The Wicked Lady" helped relieve the grim austerity of British life in and after World War II, was 86 and died Wednesday on the English Channel island of Jersey.
Critics often dismissed Arliss movies, made for the Gainsborough company, as frothy, insubstantial melodramas. But war-weary audiences, tired of austerity and separation from loved ones and keen for any chance to escape, however briefly, into a more romantic world, loved them.
In addition to "The Wicked Lady," a 1945 film set in the 17th Century of King Charles II, his other movies included "The Man in Gray" made in 1943 and "Love Story" made in 1944.
Arliss also was associated with the early careers of "Dynasty" soap opera star Joan Collins, who appeared in his 1952 movie "The Woman's Angle," and of Diana Dors, who starred in his last major feature film, "Miss Tulip Stays the Night," made in 1955.
Arliss began his working life as a journalist in South Africa but later returned to Britain to work as a scriptwriter at the Elstree movie studios in northwest London in the early 1930s.
His screenplays included "Tonight's the Night," "Orders Is Orders," and "Jack Ahoy." He used his African experiences in the screenplay for the 1936 movie "Rhodes of Africa."
He turned to movie directing in 1940 with "The Farmer's Wife," a talkie remake of the 1928 silent movie of the same title. He followed this up with "The Night Has Eyes" in 1942.
Arliss directed several films for the celebrated movie producer Sir Alexander Korda, including "Idol of Paris" and "Saints and Sinners," both made in 1948.
He later turned to British television, where his productions included "Douglas Fairbanks Presents" and "The Buccaneers" with Robert Shaw.