In 1913, the US company Famous
Players-Lasky opened an office at 10-11 Austin Friars EC for the purpose
of distributing their films and the films by Bosworth Studios. In 1914,
they moved their offices to 84 Charing Cross Road in Westminster.
Distribution ceased during the war but in
1919, they decided to go into production and formed Famous Players-Lasky
British Producers Ltd and established at studio in Islington called the
In 1924, their lease of the facilities came to an
end and they decided to close the operation. Gainsborough
Pictures purchases the studio and took over production at Islington
Balcon at the head. 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
In 1928, Gaumont-British
absorbed Gainsborough Pictures and the studio 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.
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 studio 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 at Islington. 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 and
Islington Studio in 1950.
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