Cecil Court and the Emergence of the British Film Industry
Cecil Court is a small pedestrian passageway in the London Borough of Westminster.
Under its more famous name of Flicker Alley, it is also the mythic birthplace and
romantic heart of the early British film industry. This essay sets aside romantic
myths and adopts the economic theory,of agglomeration, using the film businesses
moving in and out of Cecil Court as a case study to demonstrate the changing patterns
within the industry. In doing so it charts the growth patterns and expansion of the
British film industry from 1897 to 1911. It shows its development from its origins,in
equipment manufacture, through to production and finally to rental and cinema
building and outfitting, marking the transition from its small-scale artisan-led
beginnings into a large and complex network of distinct but interlocking film
Lance Comfort began to work in films between the age of 17 and 19, more or less growing up with the cinema. When he came to make 'B' films in the 1950s and 1960s, his wide-ranging expertise enabled him to deal efficiently with the constraints of tight budgets and schedules. He was astute at juggling several concurrent plot strands, his prescient anticipation of postwar disaffection, the invoking of film noir techniques to articulate the dilemma of the tormented protagonist. Comfort's reputation as a features director seemed to be made when Hatter's Castle, made by Paramount's British operation, opened at the Plaza, Piccadilly Circus, after a well-publicised charity première attended by the Duchess of Kent and luminaries such as Noel Coward. He had been in the film business for twenty years when, in 1946, he directed Margaret Lockwood in Bedelia. 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. There were six intervening films, justifying the journalist who described him in early 1943 as the Busiest British film director. Great Day, Portrait of Clare, Temptation Harbour, Bedelia, Daughter of Darkness, and Silent Dust were his six melodramas. He was an unpretentious craftsman who was also at best an artist, and in exploring his career trajectory, the viewer is rewarded by the spectacle of one who responded resiliently to the challenges of a volatile industry.
invoking of film noir techniques to articulate the
dilemma of the tormented protagonist, and the willingness to risk his arm
melodramatically: these, and other, qualities ensure that it is still a film
well worth looking at fifty years later. They are the sorts of qualities one
admires elsewhere in his work.
Lance Comfort had been in the filmbusiness for twenty years
when, in 1946, he directed Margaret Lockwood in Bedelia. In
This is the first book-length study of one of the most significant of all British television writers, Jimmy McGovern. The book provides comprehensive coverage of all his work for television including early writing on Brookside, major documentary dramas such as Hillsborough and Sunday and more recent series such as The Street and Accused. Whilst the book is firmly focused on McGovern’s own work, the range of his output over the period in which he has been working also provides something of an overview of the radical changes in television drama commissioning that have taken place during this time. Without compromising his deeply-held convictions McGovern has managed to adapt to an ever changing environment, often using his position as a sought-after writer to defy industry trends. The book also challenges the notion of McGovern as an uncomplicated social realist in stylistic terms. Looking particularly at his later work, a case is made for McGovern employing a greater range of narrative approaches, albeit subtly and within boundaries that allow him to continue to write for large popular audiences. Finally it is worth pointing to the book’s examination of McGovern’s role in recent years as a mentor to new voices, frequently acting as a creative producer on series that he part-writes and part brings through different less-experienced names.
Screening the Hollywood Rebels in 1950s Britain explores the relationship between classic American films about juvenile delinquency and British popular youth culture in the mid-twentieth century. The book examines the censorship, publicity and fandom surrounding such Hollywood films as The Wild One, Blackboard Jungle, Rebel Without a Cause, Rock Around the Clock and Jailhouse Rock alongside such British films as The Blue Lamp, Spare the Rod and Serious Charge. Intersecting with star studies and social and cultural history, this is the first book to re-vision the stardom surrounding three extraordinarily influential Hollywood stars: Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elvis Presley. By looking specifically at the meanings of these American stars to British fans, this analysis provides a logical and sustained narrative that explains how and why these Hollywood images fed into, and disrupted, British cultural life. Screening the Hollywood Rebels in 1950s Britain is based upon a wide range of sources including censorship records, both mainstream and trade newspapers and periodicals, archival accounts and memoirs, as well as the films themselves. The book is a timely intervention of film culture and focuses on key questions about screen violence and censorship, masculinity and transnational stardom, method acting and performance, Americanisation and popular post-war British culture. The book is essential reading for researchers, academics and students of film and social and cultural history, alongside general readers interested in the links between the media and popular youth culture in the 1950s.
, London : Secker & Warburg .
Balio , Tino ( 2010 ), The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens 1946–1973 , Madison : University of Wisconsin Press .
Ballieu , Bill and Goodchild , John ( 2002 ), The British FilmBusiness , Chichester, UK : John Wiley & Sons .
Burn , Gordon ( 1991 ), Alma Cogan , London : Secker & Warburg .
Cannadine , David ( 2000 ), Class in Britain , London : Penguin Books .
Chibnall , Steve ( 2016 ), ‘ Banging the Gong: The Promotional Strategies of Britain’s J. Arthur
everyone in the north’, before concluding:
We don’t like Germans and we don’t like war and we don’t like Italians but we do like being BRITISH, and I don’t think there are many who would get out of it if they could. In later years we will think it is a lot of rubbish but just at the moment I think everybody has grown terribly proud. Do you know the nicknames I have earned in the filmbusiness – ‘John Quality’ and ‘True Blue’. Also many people among them Donald Calthorpe [he meant the character actor Donald Calthrop] have been convinced I am a parson’s son. Prosy idiot
and Benny Herrmann were great friends during their halcyon period. Norma
Shepherd, the third Mrs Herrmann, recalled Herrmann’s stories of regular dinners
at the Hitchcocks’ in the late 1950s:
Benny used to wash dishes with Hitch, and they’d talk about what they’d do if they
weren’t in the filmbusiness. Benny wanted to run an English pub, until someone
told him you actually had to open and close at certain hours. Hitchcock then turned
to Benny, his apron folded on his head, and said solemnly, ‘a hanging judge’. (Smith,
Something in the psyches
Possibilities , National Council of Public Morals, Cinema Commission
B. Baillieu and J. Goodchild, The British FilmBusiness (London: John Wiley & Sons, 2002 ),
See A. Eyles, ‘The First National Chain:
Edition’, in Murphy
(ed.), The British Cinema Book , p. 5. The original
source is Independent on Sunday , Culture Section, 12
November 2000, p. 1.
Betts, The FilmBusiness: A History of British Cinema
1896–1972 (London, George Allen