JOHN, 7th LORD BRABOURNE
John started his long and successful film career in 1956, working as Production Manager on the film "The Battle of the River Plate", which starred Peter Finch (1916-1977) as Captain Hans Langsdorff (1894-1939), who commanded the Nazi German pocket battleship Graf Spee and (Sir) Anthony Quayle (1913-1989) as Commodore (later Rear-Admiral) Sir Henry Harwood (1888-1950), the commander of the British Royal Naval Squadron during the battle in the early months of World War II. The film was directed by Michael Powell (1905–1990) and Emeric Pressburger (1902–1988) and was chosen for the 1956 Royal Film Performance in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II (1921(1952-2022) and Princess Margaret, later Countess of Snowdon (1930-2002).
In 1958, John produced the film "Harry Black and the Tiger", which starred Stewart Granger (1913-1993), which was followed in 1960 by "Sink the Bismarck!" - the story of the Royal Navy’s search for the Nazi German’s battleship during 1941, which starred Kenneth More (1914-1982). The fact that his father-in-law (Mountbatten) was Chief of the Defence Staff, is said to have helped John achieve both authenticity with the full co-operation of the Admiralty. Subsequent films included "Damn The Defiant!" in 1962 starring Sir Dirk Bogarde (1921-1999) and Sir Alec Guinness (1914-2000) and "Othello" starring Sir Laurence Olivier, later Lord Olivier (1907-1989) in 1965. John's first Oscar nomination was in 1969 for "Romeo & Juliet" directed by Franco Zeffirelli (b.1923) which starred Leonard Whiting (b.1950) and Olivia Hussey (b.1951).
Patricia & John, 7th Lord Brabourne at a film premiere
John bought a copy of "A Passage to India" by E.M. Forster (1879-1970) in 1957 to while away the long journey to Mysore, where he was filming "Harry Black and the Tiger". After reading it, he realised - he later recalled, that this was "the film I really wanted to make", and upon his return to London he wrote several letters to Forster. In 1961, the two men met, although no formal agreement was ever made. Forster died in 1970, but King's College, Cambridge (which owned the rights to all Forster's books) took a dim view of the film world but for 10 years John wrote an annual letter to the Provost, until he was finally told that the rights were available. The subsequent film in 1984, directed by Sir David Lean (1908-1991) and starred Dame Peggy Ashcroft (1907-1991), Sir Alec Guinness (1914-2000) and Judy Davis (b.1955) was a meticulous and epic study of the tensions between the Indians and the colonial British in the 1920s and won two Oscars, and earned nine other Oscar nominations - John, 7th Lord Brabourne himself was nominated in the Best Picture category.
John Brabourne on a film set
During the 1970s and 1980s, John produced several star studded films based on the detective novels by Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) with a cavalcade of film stars including Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004), James Mason (1909-1984), Mia Farrow (b.1945), Dame Angela Lansbury (b.1925), Dame Maggie Smith (b.1934), Dame Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011), Tony Curtis (1925-2010), Rock Hudson (1925-1985) and Bette Davis (1908-1989). Films included "Murder on the Orient Express", "Death on the Nile", "Evil under the Sun" and "The Mirror Crack'd" - which was made in 1980 whilst he was still suffering from injuries sustained in the explosion which killed Mountbatten, his father-in-law. John's last film was the 1987 version of "Little Dorrit" which starred Sir Alec Guinness (1914-2000), Sir Derek Jacobi (b.1938) and Joan Greenwood (1921-1987).
John, 7th Lord Brabourne & Patricia
(in wheelchairs following the explosion in Mullaghmore in August 1979)
at the wedding of their eldest son Norton
(now 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma)
at Romsey Abbey in October 1979
to Miss Penelope 'Penny' Eastwood
The memorial to
The Hon. Nicholas 'Nicky' Knatchbull
at St John the Baptist Church, Mersham, Kent
On the set of "A Mirror Crack'd" in 1980 -
John, 7th Lord Brabourne on crutches
(still suffering from the injuries sustained),
Richard Goodwin (centre)
and Guy Hamilton, the director (right)
A film trailed from the 1980 film "A Mirror Crack'd"
Patricia & John, 7th Lord Brabourne
in their hospital beds. Patricia's face clearly
showing the signs of her injuries,
which she called her "IRA facelift"
John was in the group of family members that accompanied Mountbatten onboard 'Shadow V' on that fateful day - 27th August 1979, when Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA. John and his wife Patricia survived the explosion but were seriously injured and spent many months in hospital and recovering. Amongst the fatal casualties were John's mother - Doreen, The Dowager Lady Brabourne (1896-1979) and their youngest son (a twin) - The Hon. Nicholas 'Nicky' Knatchbull (1964-1979). John's mother - affectionately known as 'Dodo', had been rushed to Sligo General Hospital, but her injuries were too severe and she died the following day.
Both John and Patricia worked hard to rebuild their lives with fortitude, compassion without any bitterness and were determined that the Mountbatten/Knatchbull family would not be associated with tragedy of Mullaghmore in 1979 and they devoted the years after the bombing to restore peace, hope and certainty to their family - and to others.
Patricia & John, 7th Lord Brabourne at the unveiling of a memorial plaque
to the actress Dame Anna Neagle in May 1996