Basil Mailer

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Basil Mailer (1927-2000) worked in the South African film industry, initially as director and later in other capacities.


Basil Seymour Mailer was born on 15 November 1927, the son of Louis Maurice Mailer, who had come to South Africa from Lithuania. At the time his father’s profession was given as stockbroker. Basil attended Hilton College and then left for England to read English literature at Oxford University. However, after eighteen months he abandoned his studies and in 1948 moved on to Paris to attend the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques (IDHEC), where he became the first student from Africa. Thereafter he is said to have worked on films by directors such as Jean Cocteau, John Huston and Harry Watt.

Upon his return to South Africa he joined African Film Productions at Killarney, making at least one feature, three documentaries and many advertising films. He complained about the latter in a letter to his American cousin, the novelist Norman Mailer, who commiserated with him. The feature was Africa Shakes (1965), an attempt to replicate the success of A Hard Day’s Night, starring an almost forgotten British band called Bill Kimber and The Couriers, but also featuring some of the South African pop stars of the time, including Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, Dana Valery and Lemmy Mabaso. His short South African Mosaic was screened at the 1958 Melbourne Film Festival.

In 1977 he went into the irrigation business and though he continued to dabble in the film industry, usually on production rather than the creative side, eventually this became a side-line. However, in 1992 he joined Tomorrow Magazine, where he became deputy editor and wrote many articles on a variety of subjects. In 1959 he had married Gilly de Wet and the couple had three children. He died on 1 December 2000.


1951 – Where No Vultures Fly (feature) (assistant - uncredited) (Director: Harry Watt), 1954 – West of Zanzibar (feature) (2nd assistant director – uncredited) (Director: Harry Watt), 1956 – South African Mosaic / Suid-Afrikaanse Mosaïek (documentary) (director), 1958 – They Came to Stay / Eie Bodem (documentary) (director), 1958 – Diamond Safari (feature) (assistant director) (Director: Gerald Mayer), 1965 – Africa Shakes (feature) (director), 1971 – The Men from the Ministry (feature) (technical director) (Director: Tom Meehan), 1975 – Sell a Million (feature) (production manager) (Director: Ian Hamilton), 1986 – You Gotta Be Crazy! (feature) (location manager) (Directors: Emil Nofal & Dirk de Villiers), 1988 – Lethal Woman (feature) (location scout) (Director: Christian Marnham), 1988 – Act of Piracy (feature) (location co-ordinator) (Director: John “Bud” Carlos), 1988 – Jewel of the Gods (feature) (location manager) (Director: Robert van de Coolwijk).


Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm (1982)

Rand Daily Mail (various issues)

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