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Brian McFarlane

Arthur Crabtree 2 When Crabtree began his directing career in 1944, he came with an established reputation as a cinematographer which often endeared him to actors more than did his directorial skills. Again, though, I suspect these have been undervalued, as closer examination of his features will suggest. As was the case with Arliss, the success of these films tended to be attributed to the studio – Gainsborough, again – rather than to the director. Lighting his way through the 1930s (and early 1940s) Crabtree entered the film industry in his late twenties as

in Four from the forties
Author: Brian McFarlane

The 1940s represent a high point in the history of British film, characterised by the works of such recognised greats as David Lean and Michael Powell. But alongside this ‘quality cinema’ there exists a body of popular productions by film-makers who have not yet been the objects of detailed scholarly attention. Four from the forties addresses this oversight, drawing attention to four directors whose career trajectories had a good deal in common and can tell us much about what British film-goers expected from the cinema in this crucial decade. Leslie Arliss, Arthur Crabtree, Bernard Knowles and Lawrence Huntington were all born at the turn of the century. All had been active in a range of film-making functions in the 1930s, and all would do their most proficient and popular work in the 1940s, thereafter prolonging their careers into the 1960s through ‘B’ movies, co-features and television. Taken together, they offer a commentary on the changing fortunes of mid-century British cinema.

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Where to, now?
Brian Mcfarlane

dominated by the likes of those sketched above, a number of directors who had made some mark in the 1940s were to find difficulties in conducting careers at the same level in the succeeding decades. Among those who, like Comfort, had made their names and their most attractive films in the melodramatic mode were Leslie Arliss, Bernard Knowles, Arthur Crabtree and Lawrence Huntington. Arliss and Huntington had worked as

in Lance Comfort
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Brian McFarlane

Like Arthur Crabtree, Bernard Knowles established himself as a cinematographer before entering directing. Beginning in 1927, he racked up forty-three credits over seventeen years, including five with Alfred Hitchcock, The 39 Steps (1935) among them. Knowles’s first film as director was A Place of One’s Own (1945), starring James Mason and Margaret Lockwood. Though it was not well received, he went on to have better luck with subsequent works such as The Magic Bow (1946), Jassy (1947) and The White Unicorn (1947). He spent the 1950s directing ‘B’ movies and television before returning to A features with the science-fiction films Frozen Alive (1964) and Spaceflight IC-1 (1965). His final film as director (uncredited) was the Beatles vehicle Magical Mystery Tour (1967).

in Four from the forties
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Brian McFarlane

concerns. The purpose of the present book is to draw attention to four directors whose career trajectories had a good deal in common and can tell us much about what British filmgoers were flocking to see in this crucial decade when they were at their most prolific. They are Leslie Arliss, Arthur Crabtree, Bernard Knowles and Lawrence Huntington. All were born at the turn of the century (Arliss in 1901, the other three in 1900); all had been active in a range of film-making functions in the 1930s; and each would do his most proficient and popular work in the 1940s. After

in Four from the forties
Brian Mcfarlane

professional capacities than in certain major changes in the contours of the British film industry. Comfort is not the only director who enjoyed his greatest prestige in the 1940s and drifted into providing fodder for the bottom half of the double-bill in the ensuing decades, though it is at least arguable that he maintained a higher, more uniform level of achievement than such contemporaries as Arthur Crabtree

in Lance Comfort
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The treatment of the young offender
Philip Gillett

and the Wicked (d. J. Lee Thompson, 1953) exemplify this trend. Offenders are usually working class. In The Weak and the Wicked , a middle-class character played by Glynis Johns does stray into this world, but as the opening scenes are at pains to make clear, she is the victim of a deception. Mindless crime is working-class crime. Middle-class crime is planned, from Dear Murderer (d. Arthur Crabtree, 1947) to

in The British working class in postwar film
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Portrayals of the working-class family
Philip Gillett

filming was ‘prolonged and troubled’. Arthur Crabtree, the cameraman, wanted to direct the film himself. Maurice Ostrer, head of production at Gainsborough Pictures, disliked the project and quarrelled with its producer, Edward Black. When Black resigned, Ostrer delayed the film’s completion. 3 As if echoing events behind the camera, a continued friction with authority runs through Waterloo Road . The military police are the

in The British working class in postwar film
Philip Gillett

is killed, he is wearing a tailored, brocade jacket which contrasts with Leo’s zipped jacket. Zips were a novelty in the 1940s. For men, they were used by the lower classes, except when leather clothes were worn by flyers and sports car enthusiasts. Psychiatry came of age during the war, with a bastardised form often helping to shore up an ailing film plot, Madonna of the Seven Moons (d. Arthur Crabtree, 1944) and The

in The British working class in postwar film
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Brian McFarlane

, though other directors highlighted in this book – Arthur Crabtree and Bernard Knowles – would also make their contribution to this immensely popular vein of British film production. Of course, it is not just the directors who were responsible; the producers, cinematographers, production and costume designers regularly associated with the studio undoubtedly facilitated and left their mark on this string of box-office hits, not to speak of the stars who became household names in them, if, unlike Margaret Lockwood, they were not already so. Ted Black had taken over as

in Four from the forties