LONDON -- Leslie Arliss, 86, a British film director whose costume dramas of romance and adventure such as "The Wicked Lady" helped relieve the grim austerity of life in and after World War II, died Dec. 30 at his home on the English Channel island of Jersey. The cause of death was not reported.
His films made for the Gainsborough movie company helped establish Margaret Lockwood as a glamorous movie star and launched the careers of two other stars, James Mason and Stewart Granger.
Critics often dismissed Arliss movies as frothy, insubstantial melodramas, but war-weary audiences loved them. In addition to "The Wicked Lady," a 1945 film set in the 17th century of King Charles II, his movies included "The Man in Gray" made in 1943 and "Love Story" made in 1944. Parts of "The Wicked Lady," featuring Margaret Lockwood as a highway robber, had to be reshot before it could be shown in the United States because her decolletage was considered too daring for American tastes at that time.
"The Man in Gray," set in the 19th century and featuring a beautiful heroine, a Gypsy fortune-teller and a villain, starred Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Stewart Granger and Phyllis Calvert.
"Love Story," set in World War II Britain, was a story about a partially blind airman falling in love with a pianist with a weak heart. The movie was shown in the United States as "A Lady Surrenders."
Mr. Arliss was also associated with the early careers of "Dynasty" soap opera star Joan Collins and of Diana Dors. Collins appeared in his 1952 movie "The Woman's Angle," a divorce court drama told in flashbacks. Dors, who died in 1984, starred in his last major feature film, "Miss Tulip Stays the Night," made in 1955.
Mr. Arliss began his working life as a journalist in South Africa but returned to Britain to work as a scriptwriter at the Elstree movie studios in London in the early 1930s.
His screenplays included "Tonight's the Night," "Orders Is Orders" and "Jack Ahoy." He used his African experiences in the screenplay for the 1936 movie "Rhodes of Africa." He turned to movie directing in 1940 with "The Farmer's Wife," a talkie remake of the 1928 silent movie of the same title. He followed this up with "The Night Has Eyes" in 1942.
Later in the war, he worked with the late novelist, playwright and radio broadcaster J.B. Priestley on propaganda films. Mr. Arliss directed several films for the celebrated movie producer, Sir Alexander Korda, including "Idol of Paris" and "Saints and Sinners," both made in 1948. He later turned to British television, where his productions included "Douglas Fairbanks Presents" and "The Buccaneers" with Robert Shaw.
In 1928, he married Dorothy Gordon Cumming, who died in 1986. His survivors include a daughter.