Denham Film Studios

Last updated

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

Contents

Denham Film Studios, circa 1938 Denham Film Studios 1938.png
Denham Film Studios, circa 1938

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.

History

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Harold French's Unpublished Story being filmed at Denham in 1941 Afs Film Actors- the Filming of 'unpublished Story' at Denham Film Studios, Denham, Buckinghamshire, England, UK, 1941 D4223.jpg
Harold French's Unpublished Story being filmed at Denham in 1941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 were demolished in 1980 and the site re-landscaped as a business park. [11] In 2007 the land was redeveloped once more as luxury flats and houses, [12] with only the laboratory designed by Gropius surviving from the original buildings. [13]

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

Cinema of the United Kingdom Overview of the cinema of the United Kingdom

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.

Pinewood Studios 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.

Alexander Korda Hungarian-British film producer, director, and screenwriter

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

The Rank Organisation British entertainment conglomerate

The Rank Organisation was a British entertainment conglomerate founded by industrialist J. Arthur Rank in April 1937. It quickly became the largest and most vertically integrated film company in the United Kingdom, owning production, distribution and exhibition facilities. 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 The Rank Group Plc. The company itself became a wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox and was renamed XRO Limited in 1997.

Elstree Studios 8 separate film and TV studios in Borehamwood, England

Elstree Studios is a generic term which can refer to several current and defunct British film studios and television studios based in or around the towns of Borehamwood and Elstree in Hertfordshire. Studios have been located there since film production began in the area during 1914.

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.

Ronald Neame English film producer, director, cinematographer and screenwriter

Ronald Neame CBE, BSC was an English film producer, director, cinematographer, and screenwriter. Beginning his career as a cinematographer, for his work on the British war film One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1943) he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Special Effects. During a partnership with director David Lean, he produced Brief Encounter (1945), Great Expectations (1946), and Oliver Twist (1948), receiving two Academy Award nominations for writing.

June Duprez English actress (1918–1984)

June Ada Rose Duprez was an English film actress.

London Films 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.

Arthur Edeson American cinematographer

Arthur Edeson, A.S.C. was a film cinematographer, born in New York City. His career ran from the formative years of the film industry in New York, through the silent era in Hollywood, and the sound era there in the 1930s and 1940s. His work included many landmarks in film history, including The Thief of Bagdad (1924), Frankenstein (1931), The Maltese Falcon (1941), and Casablanca (1942).

Zoltan Korda

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.

Edward Black was a British film producer, best known for being head of production at Gainsborough Studios in the late 1930s and early 1940s, during which time he oversaw production of the Gainsborough melodramas. He also produced such classic films as The Lady Vanishes (1938). Black has been called "one of the unsung heroes of the British film industry." In 1946 Mason called Black "the one good production executive" that J. Arthur Rank had. Frank Launder called Black "a great showman and yet he had a great feeling for scripts and spent more time on them than anyone I have ever known. His experimental films used to come off as successful as his others."

William Hornbeck was an American film editor and film industry executive. In a 1977 poll of film editors, he had been called "the best film editor the industry has produced." He was nominated four times for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing, and won the award for A Place in the Sun (1951). Other important credits include It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Giant (1956), and I Want to Live! (1958). He edited films from notable directors including Zoltan Korda, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. Universal Pictures almost brought him on board to completely re-edit George Lucas' American Graffiti.

Beaconsfield Film Studios 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.

<i>London Melody</i> 1937 British film

London Melody is a 1937 British musical film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, Tullio Carminati and Robert Douglas. It was made at British and Dominions Imperial Studios, Elstree and Pinewood Studios by Wilcox's independent production company and distributed by J. Arthur Rank's General Film Distributors. It was also released with the alternative title Look Out for Love.

<i>Paradise for Two</i> 1937 British film

Paradise for Two is a 1937 British musical comedy film directed by Thornton Freeland and starring Jack Hulbert, Patricia Ellis and Arthur Riscoe. It was released in the U.S. with the alternative title Gaiety Girls. A chorus girl is mistaken for a millionaire's girlfriend.

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.

Fred Pusey was a British film art director and production designer, and a Second World War camouflage officer. His artistic skill was put to use on large-scale deception schemes in the Western Desert, including a dummy railhead and a dummy port.

British and Dominions Imperial Studios

British and Dominions Imperial Studios was a short-lived British film production company located at Imperial Place, Elstree Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire that was active from 1929 to 1936, when it ceased production after the studio facilities were destroyed by fire.

References

  1. "Record details". Buckinghamshire County Council. 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. malonedigital.com.
  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. heroescentre.co.uk
  11. Colin Sorensen, A Schoolboy at King Arthur's Court, radio programme
  12. "The Denham Film Studios". Milbank Concrete Products. 23 August 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  13. 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