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
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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