Brian G Hutton, who has died following a heart attack, aged 79, was a bit-part actor when he first appeared on screen with Clint Eastwood in the TV western series Rawhide in 1961.
Within a few years Hutton had graduated to directing and one of his early low-budget films was produced by the legendary Elliott Kastner, who turned to Hutton again when it came to take charge of MGM's Second World War blockbuster Where Eagles Dare (1968).
Eastwood was just beginning to make a mark in the cinema on the back of the Dollar westerns.
Hutton cast his former co-star as one of the Allied officers on a secret mission to rescue an American general from a Bavarian castle and helped consolidate Eastwood's image as a man of action and few words.
Hutton and Eastwood got together again for a second classic war film Kelly's Heroes (1970) and Hutton also made a couple of films with Elizabeth Taylor. But he quit the movie business in his forties, latterly working in real estate.
Born in New York in 1935, Hutton studied at the Actors Studio in NYC, moved to California and appeared in supporting roles in television and films, including Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957) and King Creole (1958) - he and Elvis were in the same gang.
Hutton got his chance to direct on Wild Seed (1965), a film about a teenage runaway and a drifter, and enjoyed some success with his next film The Pad (1966), a rather poignant comedy about a man who thinks he has found the perfect mate. The Heroin Gang (1968) marked the beginning of his working relationship with Kastner.
The Scottish novelist Alistair MacLean was one of the world's best-selling writers and he wrote Where Eagles Dare after Kastner told him that Richard Burton was looking for something in the mould of The Guns of Navarone, which had been adapted from a previous MacLean novel into a classic film in 1961.
While Kastner had every confidence in the relatively inexperienced Hutton, Burton took more convincing and agreed to his appointment only after discovering that Hutton's family were originally Welsh, like Burton.
"I speak a little Welsh," Hutton said in an interview with Cinema Retro magazine in 1994. "He and I used to sing Welsh songs together. He used to laugh because my Welsh was actually very bad."
Where Eagles Dare had a convoluted plot and there was a lot of exposition. Hutton, Eastwood and Burton decided between them to tweak the script, leaving most of the talking to Burton, who was famous for his mellifluous tones, and most of the shooting to Eastwood.
On one occasion Quentin Tarantino was enthusing about the film to fellow director Robert Zemeckis who reputedly replied: "Isn't that the one where Clint Eastwood kills more people than anybody else in movie history?"
Eastwood and Hutton were reunited on Kelly's Heroes, another war film, but with a lighter tone. Eastwood leads a small band behind enemy lines again, but this time they are on a personal mission to rob a bank.
Hutton also directed Zee and Co (1972) and Night Watch (1973), both of which starred Burton's sometime wife Elizabeth Taylor, but he became increasingly disillusioned with directing and the whole movie business.
He said: "When I finished the second Elizabeth Taylor picture, I thought, Well, what am I wasting my life doing this for? I mean, a gorilla could have made those movies.
"Elizabeth Taylor does what she's got to do and Laurence Harvey does what he's got to do. It was good fun, but all I had to do was yell 'Action' and 'Cut-Print' because everybody was doing what they had to do anyway."
Kastner wooed Hutton back seven years later to take over from Roman Polanski as director on The First Deadly Sin (1980) when the scandal broke over allegations that Polanski had had sex with a minor.
It featured Frank Sinatra in his final leading role.
Hutton directed only one more film after that, the Tom Selleck adventure High Road to China (1983).
He is survived by his wife Victoria.