Tom Ryall
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The formative years
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This chapter charts the topography of the British film industry in the 1920s, when Anthony Asquith began his film career. Asquith entered the film industry in the mid-1920s, towards the end of the troubled silent period when the production industry in Britain was in decline in the face of competition from the American film. The industry struggled to find a position in the market and seemed to many on the brink of extinction. The 1928 Cinematograph Films Act effectively laid the foundations for a British production industry by, among other provisions, requiring exhibitors to screen a number of British films as part of their annual schedules. It was also a period marked by ‘a lively engagement with issues of film criticism and aesthetics’, which was stimulated in part by the new adventurous films from Germany, France, the Scandinavian countries, and the Soviet Union. Tell England (1931), the much-delayed project about the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War, was to be Asquith's first sound film proper, though, as with Shooting Stars, he was to work in collaboration with another experienced figure. British Instructional had proved to be a congenial context for the start of a career in film making; the next phase of Asquith's career was to prove somewhat more problematic.

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