b. 19 January 1932, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. An avid student from the age of three, in his teens Lester sang and composed music while studying for a degree in clinical psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Going into television, he quickly became a director but in the early 50s temporarily abandoned his career and headed for Europe where he played and sang to support his wanderings. In 1956 he returned to television, this time in the UK. An association with comedian-actor Peter Sellers led to him directing Oscar-nominated The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (1959). He then directed It’s Trad, Dad! (1962, US title: Ring-A-Ding Rhythm), starring Helen Shapiro and Craig Douglas. The film was a flimsy excuse for a look at the contemporary UK pop scene, then on the cusp of change from traditional jazz to rock ‘n’ roll, represented by artists such as Acker Bilk, the Temperance 7, Gene Vincent, John Leyton, Chubby Checker, Gene McDaniels and Gary ‘U.S.’ Bonds.
In the mid-60s Lester worked with the Beatles, directing A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965), and in 1965 he also directed The Knack … And How To Get It, a sharp and entertaining look at the spirit of London in the Swinging 60s. The following year came Lester’s first Hollywood assignment, a film version of the Broadway musical, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Through the rest of the 60s and on through the next two decades, Lester directed films in the UK and USA, ranging through satire, drama, farce, westerns, and fast action spectaculars, the latter represented by Superman II (1980) and Superman III (1983). In the 90s Lester’s work included Get Back (1991), a filmed account of Paul McCartney’s World Tour.