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Frank Cvitanovich

Frank CvitanovichDescribed by the Independent newspaper as 'a documentary-maker of rare expressiveness with a deeply humane and sympathetic vision', Frank Cvitanovich was born in 1927 in Vancouver, one of five children whose father was an immigrant from the Dalmatian coast of Yugoslavia. The young Frank was apprenticed to his father’s salmon-fishing business but then became a race-course groom, theatre hand, film runner and poker player. His hopes of signing up for the Los Angeles Rams American Football team were ended by a knee injury whereupon he made his way into Hollywood as director of a series of Gene Autrey 'singing cowboy' programmes.

He went on to direct opera and to develop a passion for the films of the neo-realist directors de Sica and Roberto Rosselini. In 1957 he arrived in Britain and fell in love with the north of England. His early documentaries included programmes about the Charlton brothers, Barry Sheene and George Orwell, though it was 'Bunny', made in 1972 with his then wife Midge Mackenzie, that really caught the public eye. 'Bunny' described how he and Midge helped the development of their son who had been born brain-damaged.

According to Cvitanovich, Jeremy Isaacs at Thames commissioned 'Beauty, Bonny...' on the strength of no more than a couple of spoken sentences. It was filmed in 1974 and went on to win a Bafta award and the Prix Italia at Bologna.

More programmes about soccer, horse-racing and the north of England followed as well as 'Down in the Valley', a film of Kurt Weill’s American Western folk opera. Frank Cvitanovich died in 1995.

Beauty, Bonny, Daisy, Violet, Grace and Geoffrey Morton, 2000

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