Karel Reisz was born in 1926 in Czechoslovakia. He came to England in 1938 as a Jewish refugee, one of the six hundred children rescued by Sir Nicholas Winton. After attending Leighton Park School, he joined the Royal Air Force towards the end of the war. Both his parents died at Auschwitz. Following his war service, he read Natural Sciences at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and began to write for film journals, including Sight and Sound. He co-founded Sequence with Lindsay Anderson and Gavin Lambert in 1947.
Reisz was a founder member of the Free Cinema documentary film movement. His first short film, Momma Don't Allow (1955), co-directed with Tony Richardson, was included in the first Free Cinema programme shown at the National Film Theatre in February 1956.
His first feature film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) was based on the realist novel by Alan Sillitoe, and used many of the same techniques as his earlier documentaries. It won several BAFTA awards including the one for the Best film.
The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) was probably the most successful of his later films. Adapted from the John Fowles novel by Harold Pinter, it starred Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep. Reisz was a patron of the British Film Institute. His standard textbook, The Technique of Film Editing was first published in 1953.
Karel Reisz died in 2002 in London at age of 76.
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