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Gainsborough Pictures

Michael Balcon, Victor Saville and Graham Cutts formed Gainsborough Pictures in 1924. Also on the board was John Freedman of W & F to handle the distribution.

As Famous Players-Lasky British ended their contract with Islington, Gainsborough took over production at Islington with Balcon at the head and proceeded to release numerous major successes. Balcon developed a very talented group which led Gainsborough into the limelight of major production companies. One of the bright spots was a young assistant director under Graham Cutts, named Alfred Hitchcock. Shown on the right is the poster from the 1926 film Sea Urchin, which shows the way the credits were presented.

Saville left the company in 1926 to join Gaumont-British and was instumental in the early development of Gaumont's sound releases.

In 1928, Gaumont absorbed Gainsborough Pictures headed by Michael Balcon and formed a conglomerate which also included nearly 300 cinemas. Balcon remained head of production for the Gainsborough studio in Islington. Gaumont was set to handle the higher budget films and Gainsborough to handle the lower budget films.

Gaumont established an alliance with Ufa of Germany through Balcon and started work on British versions of several major Ufa films. Unfortunately, this alliance ceased abruptly when Hitler took control of the country in the early 1930s.

In 1936, Balcon who was increasingly having trouble with management, left Gainsborough for a 2 year contract with MGM for a larger salary. Ted Black took over production.

In 1937, with the British market shrinking, Isadore Ostrer announced that Gaumont Studio at Lime Grove would have to close down. C. M. Woolf and J. Arthur Rank came in with a package to take over the production of Lime Grove and move it to Pinewood and let Gainsborough continue its production at Islington with ownership moving to Rank.

Ironically, Pinewood closed down the following year and Islington received a new burst of life from a contract with 20th Century Fox. Unfortunately, 1939 brought World War II and a lot of changes.

Another odd twist came when the chimneys at Islington became unstable and Lime Grove had to be reopened and the Gainsborough production moved to Lime Grove during the war to take care of the production.

In 1941, Rank took control of Gaumont and shortly afterward Isadore Ostrer died the same year. The following year C. M. Woolf also died.

With Maurice Ostrer and Ted Black at the controls of the production and 20th Century contracts expiring in 1942, Black brought in R. J. Minney who was a Hollywood scriptwriter and gambled that what Britain needed was some escapism films to get the publics mind off of the war. These became the most successful films in Gainsborough history, fueling a feud between Ostrer and Black. Black left to join Korda at MGM.

At the end of the war, Rank, unhappy with Ostrer handling of production replaced him with Sidney Box who in turn placed his sister Betty Box as head producer. Several well accepted films were made but by 1949 the heavy overhead of the outdated facilities were too much. Rank decided to cut his loses and closed Gainsborough Pictures in 1950.

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