War Years 40’s
The Second World War caused a minor miracle to happen to movie making
in the Britain. A new spirit of enthusiasm coupled with strenuous work
led to the abandonment of the stupidity and extravagance of the previous
decade. After a faltering start, British films began to make increasing
use of documentary techniques and former documentary film-makers to
make more realistic films, like In Which We Serve (1942), Went the Day
With many of the employees being engaged in war work, available manpower
was reduced to one third and half of the studio space was requisitioned,
only sixty films were produced annually. New realism in wartime pictures
and a demand for documentaries gave a whole new look to British films.
Initially, many cinemas closed down for fear of air raids, but the public
needed a way of escaping the reality of war, and turned to the more
genteel, sanitized versions available in the cinema. The majority was
war related, The Stars Look Down; 49th Parallel; Convoy and This Happy
Some of the finest British work came out of the period including Brief
Encounter; The Wicked Lady; The Man in Grey; Olivier’s Henry V.
New directors, artists and writers came to the fore, David Lean as a
director, Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat as writers and Richard Attenborough,
Michael Redgrave, David Niven and Stewart Granger were elevated to stardom.
In post war Britain, during the period 1945-1955, the Rank Organization,
with Michael Balcon at the helm, was the dominant force in film production
and distribution. It acquired a number of British studios, and bank-rolled
some of the great British film-makers which were emerging in this period.
Their rivals, Korda's London Films continued to expand, taking over
the British Lion Film Corporation in 1946 and Shepperton Studios the
1949 was a bad year financially partly due to a series of good, but
big budget movies. The Red Shoes; Hamlet; Fallen Idol; Great Expectations
and Oliver Twist. Smaller budget productions also left there mark with
Passport to Pimlico; and the very successful Kind Hearts and Coronets
that established Alec Guinness as a star.
British Watermark 1950 – 59
It was symptomatic of the changing entertainment habits of the general
public that Rank sold their Lime Grove Studios in West London to the
BBC in 1949. Television was just beginning to have an effect on the
film industry. During the 1950' and early 60's Films had to learn to
be more exportable and welcome to foreign audiences. Many achieved both
of these criteria among them works by David Lean and Carol Reed.
Then in 1947, Ealing's comedy Hue and Cry, was a surprise hit. An entertaining
story of a criminal gang foiled by an enthusiastic army of schoolboys,
the film met a public desire for relief after years of fighting and
The studio released many comedies before and during the war but 'Ealing
Comedy' proper began in 1949, with the consecutive release of Passport
to Pimlic, Whisky Galore! and Kind Hearts and Coronet. The Lavender
Hill Mob was also very successful, in which a mild-mannered bank clerk
masterminds a robbery of the Bank of England's gold reserves.
There were important newcomers in the acting field that had international
appeal, Jack Hawkins, Kenneth More, Richard Todd, Richard Burton and
Peter Finch. British actresses of this calibre remained scarce. Films
like The Lady Killers; Genevieve; The Cruel Sea and The Colditz Story
helped to keep the UK's reputation high. Funding was also kept up by
well made popular, but erring on schoolboy bathroom humour series. Which
included the Doctor and the Carry On series. An unusual success in this
decade The Blue Lamp which was a documentary on life in Britain at the
time. Interestingly it actually was more of a tribute to the police
written by won of their own.
the fifties saw the beginning of Hammer Horror studios which went to
be by far the most successful studio in the History of the British Isles.
It launched the careers of Christopher lee and Peter Cushing and the
directorial success of Terence Fisher.