Denham Film Studios was a British film production studio operating from 1936 to 1952, founded by Alexander Korda.
Notable films made at Denham include Brief Encounter and David Lean's Great Expectations . From the 1950s to the 1970s the studio became best known for recording film music, including the scores for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo , Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , and Star Wars .
The studio buildings were demolished in 1981 and the site re-landscaped as a business park; as of 2017 it has been turned over to residential use.
The studios were founded by Alexander Korda in 1935,on a 165-acre (668,000 m2) site known as 'The Fisheries' near the village of Denham, Buckinghamshire, and designed by architects Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry. At the time it was the largest facility of its kind in the UK. In 1937, Queen Mary visited the studios while The Drum was being filmed. In 1946, 'Stage One Music Theatre' opened. Designed by sound recordist and engineer Cyril Crowhurst, the stage could accommodate 120 performers.
The studios were known by various names during their lifetime including London Film Studios, the home of Korda's London Films. It was merged with the Rank Organisation's Pinewood Studios to form D&P Studios;Pinewood is just 4 miles south of Denham. Film makers were said to prefer Denham as a location, leading to Pinewood Studios being used for storage during the Second World War.
Some of the notable films made at Denham include, The Thief of Bagdad , 49th Parallel , Brief Encounter , Great Expectations , Hamlet . Bernard Miles said that "when the technicians, the electricians and carpenters and so on, on the floor, who had been watching a scene filmed, applauded, you knew it was good, because they'd seen the best."Colin Sorensen, who as a schoolboy often watched the work going on at Denham recalled the sight "of the main studio buildings, a great mass of, probably asbestos, grey-green roofs" and the smell of "cellulose paint merged with newly cut soft wood." The proximity of Denham Aerodrome was sometimes difficult. Mary Morris remembered that an intimate scene with Leslie Howard, for Pimpernel Smith was "interrupted 22 times by aircraft noise."
Denham's final film was made in 1952,and the J. Arthur Rank Company went on to rent the facility to the United States Air Force between 1955 and December 1961. In the 1960s and 70s Rank occupied the Art Deco office buildings and used most of the sound stages as warehouses. Despite this, from the 1950s Denham became one of the most important centres for recording film music, the studio played host to Bernard Herrmann, John Barry, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams, among others.
After the closing of the film studio, Stage One Music Theatre was used periodically by Pinewood Studios and Rank to record film scores, including for Vertigo, The Three Worlds of Gulliver and Mysterious Island . In 1966 the film production company Anvil Films moved into the large music stage at Denham. Led by Ken Cameron (brother of the famous journalist James), Ken Scrivener, Richard Warren and Ralph May, Anvil recorded post-synching dialogue, Foley sound effects and music. By 1969, the studio claimed it was the most technologically advanced recording studio in Europe. Important films recorded during their time at the studio, included Ryan's Daughter , Jane Eyre , International Velvet , Superman , Star Wars , the TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth , Alien and The Empire Strikes Back . The company was forced to move in 1980 when the studio was bought by a developer.
The buildings were demolished in 1980 and the site re-landscaped as a business park.In 2007 the land was redeveloped once more as luxury flats and houses, with only the laboratory designed by Gropius surviving from the original buildings.
Made on the site during construction:
The first film to be made at the studio proper was Southern Roses (1936). Others included:
The last film to be made at Denham was Disney's The Sword and the Rose (1953).
The United Kingdom has had a significant film industry for over a century. While film production reached an all-time high in 1936, the "golden age" of British cinema is usually thought to have occurred in the 1940s, during which the directors David Lean, Michael Powell, and Carol Reed produced their most critically acclaimed works. Many British actors have accrued critical success and worldwide recognition, such as Audrey Hepburn, Maggie Smith, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Joan Collins, Judi Dench, Julie Andrews, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet. Some of the films with the largest ever box office returns have been made in the United Kingdom, including the third and sixth highest-grossing film franchises.
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