Denham Film Studios

Last updated

51°35′04″N0°29′56″W / 51.584569°N 0.498902°W / 51.584569; -0.498902


Denham Film Studios, c. 1938 Denham Film Studios 1938.png
Denham Film Studios, c.1938

Denham Film Studios was a British film production studio operating from 1936 to 1952, founded by Alexander Korda, in Buckinghamshire.

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, [1] 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. [2] In 1946, 'Stage One Music Theatre' opened. Designed by sound recordist and engineer Cyril Crowhurst, the stage could accommodate 120 performers. [3]

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; [4] 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. [5]

Harold French's Unpublished Story being filmed at Denham in 1941 Afs Film Actors- the Filming of 'unpublished Story' at Denham Film Studios, Denham, Buckinghamshire, England, UK, 1941 D4223.jpg
Harold French's Unpublished Story being filmed at Denham in 1941

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." [6] 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." [7]

Denham's final film was made in 1952, [8] 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. [9]

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. [3] [10]

The buildings on the south of the site were demolished in 1980 and the area redeveloped and landscaped as Broadwater Park business park. [11] The landscaped gardens, by Preben Jakobsen and utilising spoil from the demolished buildings, are included on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. [12] In 2017 the Grade II listed main studio building and surrounding land were redeveloped as luxury flats and houses. The Art Deco main building, which included a film processing laboratory and cinema, is the only surviving building from the original film studios. [13] [14]

Selected films

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).

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cinema of the United Kingdom</span> Overview of the cinema of the United Kingdom

The oldest known surviving film was shot in the United Kingdom as well as early colour films. 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, Olivia de Havilland, Vivien Leigh, Glynis Johns, Maggie Smith, Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Ian Mckellen, Joan Collins, Judi Dench, Julie Andrews, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins and Kate Winslet. Some of the films with the largest ever box office returns have been made in the United Kingdom, including the fourth and fifth highest-grossing film franchises.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pinewood Studios</span> British film and television studio

Pinewood Studios is a British film and television studio located in the village of Iver Heath, England. It is approximately 18 miles (29 km) west of central London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alexander Korda</span> British film director (1893–1956)

Sir Alexander Korda was a Hungarian–born British film director, producer, and screenwriter, who founded his own film production studios and film distribution company.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">J. Arthur Rank</span> British industrialist (1888–1972)

Joseph Arthur Rank, 1st Baron Rank was an English industrialist who was head and founder of the Rank Organisation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Rank Organisation</span> British entertainment conglomerate

The Rank Organisation was a British entertainment conglomerate founded by industrialist J. Arthur Rank in April 1937, Rank also served as the company chairman. It quickly became the largest and most vertically integrated film company in the United Kingdom, owning production, distribution, and exhibition facilities as well as manufacturing projection equipment and chairs. It also diversified into the manufacture of radios, TVs and photocopiers. The company name lasted until February 1996, when the name and some of the remaining assets were absorbed into the newly structured Rank Group plc. The company itself became a wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox and was renamed XRO Limited in 1997.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Denham, Buckinghamshire</span> Village and civil parish in Buckinghamshire, England

Denham is a village and civil parish in the unitary authority of Buckinghamshire, England, approximately 17 mi from central London,2 mi northwest of Uxbridge and just north of junction 1 of the M40 motorway. The name is derived from the Old English for "homestead in a valley". It was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Deneham. Denham contains the Buckinghamshire Golf Club.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Iver</span> Human settlement in England

Iver is a civil parish in Buckinghamshire, England. In addition to the central clustered village, the parish includes the residential neighbourhoods of Iver Heath and Richings Park and the hamlets of Shreding Green and Thorney.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elstree Studios</span> 8 film & TV studios in Borehamwood, UK

Elstree Studios is a generic term which can refer to several current and demolished British film studios and television studios based in or around the town of Borehamwood and village of Elstree in Hertfordshire, England. Production studios have been located in the area since 1914 when film production began there.

The British National Films Company was formed in England in 1934 by J. Arthur Rank, Lady Annie Henrietta Yule of Bricket Wood, and producer John Corfield.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Boot</span> British film producer

Charles Boot JP was an English businessman and film producer who was the driving force behind the growth of Henry Boot & Sons in the inter-war period. As well as creating one of the largest contracting and housebuilding firms of its time, he was a staunch advocate of the need for better housing and the virtues of private rather than local authority housing. He was also the creator of Pinewood Studios.

<i>Goodbye, Mr. Chips</i> (1939 film) 1939 film by Sam Wood

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a 1939 romantic drama film starring Robert Donat, Greer Garson and directed by Sam Wood. Based on the 1934 novella of the same name by James Hilton, the film is about Mr. Chipping, a beloved aged school teacher and former headmaster of a boarding school, who recalls his career and his personal life over the decades. Produced for the British division of MGM at Denham Studios, the film was dedicated to Irving Thalberg, who died on 14 September 1936. At the 12th Academy Awards, it was nominated for seven awards, including Best Picture, and for his performance as Mr. Chipping, Donat won the award for Best Actor.

<i>Contraband</i> (1940 film) 1940 film by Michael Powell

Contraband (1940) is a wartime spy film by the British director-writer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, which reunited stars Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson after their earlier appearance in The Spy in Black the previous year. On this occasion, Veidt plays a hero, something he did not do very often, and there is also an early (uncredited) performance by Leo Genn.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">London Films</span> British film and television production company

London Films Productions is a British film and television production company founded in 1932 by Alexander Korda and from 1936 based at Denham Film Studios in Buckinghamshire, near London. The company's productions included The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Things to Come (1936), Rembrandt (1936), and The Four Feathers (1939). The facility at Denham was taken over in 1939 by Rank and merged with Pinewood to form D & P Studios. The outbreak of war necessitated that The Thief of Bagdad (1940) be completed in California, although Korda's handful of American-made films still displayed Big Ben as their opening corporate logo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zoltan Korda</span> Hungarian-born filmmaker (1895–1961)

Zoltan Korda was a Hungarian-born motion picture screenwriter, director and producer. He made his first film in Hungary in 1918, and worked with his brother Alexander Korda on film-making there and in London. They both moved to the United States in 1940 to Hollywood and the American film industry.

MGM-British was a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer initially established at Denham Film Studios in 1936. It was in limbo during the Second World War; however, following the end of hostilities, a facility was acquired in Borehamwood, which remained in use until it was closed in 1970.

Ian Dalrymple was a British screenwriter, film director, film editor and film producer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beaconsfield Film Studios</span> Film and television production facility in Buckinghamshire, England

Beaconsfield Film Studios is a British television and film studio in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. The studios were operational as a production site for films in 1922, and continued producing films - and, later, TV shows - until the 1960s. Britain's first talking movie was recorded there, as were films starring British actors Gracie Fields, Peter Sellers and John Mills.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hills House, Denham</span> Residential in Denham, Buckinghamshire

Hills House is a 17th-century residence located on the Village Road in Denham, Buckinghamshire, England. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, it was the home of actress Merle Oberon and her husband, the film producer Sir Alexander Korda. In 1975 the house was purchased by Sir John and Lady Mills.

Walter Percy Day O.B.E. (1878–1965) was a British painter best remembered for his work as a matte artist and special effects technician in the film industry. Professional names include W. Percy Day; Percy Day; "Pop" or "Poppa" Day, owing to his collaboration with sons Arthur George Day (1909–1952) draughtsman, Thomas Sydney Day (1912–1985), stills photographer and cameraman, and stepson, Peter Ellenshaw, who also worked in this field.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">British and Dominions Imperial Studios</span> Former film studios in Elstree, England

Imperial Studios were the studios of the British and Dominions Film Corporation, a short-lived British film production company located at Imperial Place, Elstree Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. The studios were active from 1929 to 1936, when they were destroyed by fire.


  1. "Record details". Buckinghamshire County Council. 2012. Archived from the original on 17 August 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  2. "Full record for 'Queen Mary's Visit To Denham Film Studios'". National Library of Scotland. 1937. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  3. 1 2 Malone, Chris (November 2009). Anvil of Denham - A Brief Musical History Archived 3 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine .
  4. Skinner, James (2008). Growing Up in Wartime Uxbridge. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. ISBN   978-0-7524-4543-4.
  5. "Pinewood Studio". British Movie Classics. 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  6. Colin Sorensen , recalling what Bernard Miles had told him, on the radio programme, A Schoolboy at King Arthur's Court.
  7. Colin Sorensen, A Schoolboy at King Arthur's Court.
  8. "Denham Studios". British Film Institute. 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  9. [Matthew Sweet|Sweet, Matthew] ( 23 Sep 2017). Sound of Cinema - Denham Film Studios. [BBC Radio 3].
  10. Ken Cameron – BSound Engineer for Crown Film Unit & Director.
  11. Colin Sorensen, A Schoolboy at King Arthur's Court, radio programme
  12. Historic England. "Broadwater Park (Grade II) (1466908)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 11 May 2023.
  13. "The Denham Film Studios". Milbank Concrete Products. 23 August 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  14. First homes go on sale at Denham Film Studios:£120m conversion of iconic site brings hundreds of new homes within a 20-minute commute of central London