Obituary: Euan Lloyd, film producer

The Wild Geese challenged Euan Lloyds production skills. Picture: The Kobal Collection

The Wild Geese challenged Euan Lloyds production skills. Picture: The Kobal Collection

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Born: 6 December, 1923, in Bilton, Warwickshire. Died: 2 July, 2016, in London, aged 92.

The British film industry was in a state of depression when Euan Lloyd became an independent producer and much of his time was spent battling to find finance for his productions.

Although he failed to get backing for some projects, he made a handful of action pictures that have enjoyed longevity with the viewing public.

First came The Wild Geese (1978), pitching three giants of British cinema – Richard Burton, Roger Moore and Richard Harris – into a story of mercenaries trying to rescue a democratically elected president sentenced to execution by a central African country’s dictator.

Lloyd’s ambition was to emulate adventure films such as The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare, but the sagas surrounding The Wild Geese were typical of the constant challenges he faced as a producer.

Burt Lancaster was originally cast as Captain Rafer Janders but dropped when he insisted on being given a bigger role. So Harris was drafted in to replace him but, with a reputation for hard drinking that had led to at least one film going over budget, the film’s insurers insisted that he put down half of his fee as a guarantee. In the event, there were no problems.

Moore starred again, along with Gregory Peck, David Niven and Trevor Howard, when Lloyd made The Sea Wolves (1980), based on real-life events and depicting how former British military officers in Calcutta set out to destroy Nazi U-boats during the Second World War.

Shortly afterwards, he was inspired to make Who Dares Wins (1982) on seeing the 1980 storming of the Iranian embassy in London, just a short distance from his home.

“I watched in awe at what these SAS men did and truly I felt very proud,” said Lloyd, who saw the film as an antidote to anti-Establishment pictures of the time. “Terrorism worries me greatly, so here was an opportunity for me to say what I’ve felt for a long time.”

The film features American and British politicians and military leaders being held hostage at a meeting to discuss the siting of nuclear missiles in Europe, Lewis Collins – well known to British audiences for his action role on TV in The Professionals – starred as an SAS soldier infiltrating the terrorists and, despite some critical maulings, Who Dares Wins became one of the ten most successful films at the domestic box office in 1982.

Lloyd was not so lucky with his final film, The Wild Geese II (1985), the fictional story of an attempt to break Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess out of Spandau Prison. Its poor performance in cinemas was the last in a chain of events that began with Roger Moore declining to reprise his role from the original and the death of Richard Burton – who had agreed to return – just days before shooting was due to begin. Edward Fox replaced Burton, with Laurence Olivier playing Hess.

Euan Wallace Lloyd was born to John and Doris (née Rose) on their Warwickshire dairy farm outside Rugby. He loved going to Saturday cinema matinees to watch Buster Crabbe serials, Laurel and Hardy comedies and, in particular, Westerns.

On leaving school at 14, he worked on the family farm before landing a job at Walsall’s ABC cinema and was soon its assistant manager. He became a publicist for movie mogul J Arthur Rank’s Eagle-Lion Films during the Second World War, then in 1951 for the newly established Variety Club.

Hollywood actor Alan Ladd, whom Lloyd publicised in The Red Beret (1953), recommended him for a job as a production assistant at Warwick Films, where he worked on pictures such as the 1955 war drama The Cockleshell Heroes, as well as writing, directing and producing travelogues. From there, Lloyd became associate producer on several films.

As a fully fledged producer, he travelled to Spain to make the Westerns Shalako (1968), teaming Sean Connery with Brigitte Bardot, Catlow (1971), with Richard Crenna and Yul Brynner, and The Man Called Noon (1973), starring Crenna.

Back in Britain, Lloyd’s first film as an independent producer, Paper Tiger (1975) – starring David Niven as tutor to a Japanese ambassadors’s son in south-east Asia – was not a success, but he persisted and attracted cinemagoers with his action-adventure films.

Lloyd’s first three marriages – to opera singer Julia Behar (1947) and actresses Jane Hylton (née Audrey Gwendolyn Clark, 1951) and Patricia Donahue (née Mahar, 1961) – ended in divorce. He is survived by former actress Rosalind, the daughter of his second marriage, guitarist Jerry Donahue, the stepson of his third marriage, Ando, an orphan from Vietnam whom he and Patricia Donahue adopted in 1975, and his fourth wife, Ingeborg (née Muller), a film publicist whom he married in 1982. His other stepson, Marc Donahue, predeceased him.

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