Edward Black (producer)

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Edward Black
Edward Black

(1900-08-18)18 August 1900
Died30 November 1948(1948-11-30) (aged 48)
Occupation Film producer
Years active1935 - 1948
Notable work
The Lady Vanishes

Edward Black (18 August 1900, Birmingham - 30 November 1948, London) 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. [1] [2] 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." [3] In 1946 Mason called Black "the one good production executive" that J. Arthur Rank had. [4] 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." [5]


Black specialized in making comedies, thrillers and low-budget musicals. [3] He had a lot of success making comedy vehicles for stars such as Will Hay and Arthur Askey. He also produced early films from Carol Reed and Alfred Hitchcock and was an early supporter of writer directors Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder. [6]

Early life

Black was the third son of George Black, a property master at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, who became a cinema owner. George Black became a manager of a touring waxworks show then travelling cinema; in 1905 he set up the Monkwearmouth Picture Hall in Sounderland - this was one of the first permanent cinemas in Britain. He bought two more before he died in 1910.

His and his sons Ted, George and Alfred built up the cinema to a circuit of thirteen cinemas in the Tyneside area. In 1919 they sold them and set about establishing another circuit. In 1928 they told this to the General Theatre Corporation. When that was taken over by Gaumont-British, Ted became a cinema circuit manager. In 1930 he went into production.

Gaumont British

In 1930 Black became an assistant production manager at Shepherd’s Bush and then studio manager at Islington. [7]

In 1935 he and Sidney Gilliat were associate producers on Tudor Rose. Black then took over the running of Islington studios.


In December 1936, Michael Balcon left Gaumont-British for MGM. In March 1937 Shepherd’s Bush studios and Gaumont-British Distributors were closed. However Gainsborough continued as a production center thanks to a deal with C.M. Woolf and J. Arthur Rank’s General Film Distributors. Black was in charge along with Maurice Ostrer. They made movies for Gainsborough and 20th Century Fox. [7]

According to Robert Murphy, "Black concentrated on making films for British audiences. Like his brother George at the London Palladium, Ted had an almost superstitious faith in his ability to divine popular taste and was wary about involving himself with anything that might dilute it." [8]

Alfred Roome, a film editor at Gainsborough, said: "We often wondered why Ted Black didn’t mix with the elite of his profession. I don’t think he ever went to a premiere, star parties and the like. One day he explained his apparent aloofness. He said he didn’t want to get contaminated by people outside his band of entertainment. 'If I mix with the intellectual lot, it’ll impair my judgement', he said." [8]

Black helped promote new stars like Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave and Phyllis Calvert. He also employed variety performers like Will Hay, Will Fyffe and The Crazy Gang, and the comedian Arthur Askey.

Black was very strong in promoting writers. Frank Launder said: "Ted believed in writers. To him the screenplay was the be-all and end- all. He enjoyed script conferences and went in for them wholesale, which made it pretty arduous going for the script editor as well as the writers and directors." [9]

In January 1939, Gaumont signed a deal with 20th Century Fox. [10]

World War Two

With the advent of World War Two, Black arranged for Gainsborough to move from Islington to Shepherd's Bush. He had Gaumont make more comedies such as Band Waggon . [11]

In the words of one writer, Black "held the studio together during its most difficult period, backed Laundner and Gilliat in establishing a strong script department, retained the services of some of the best cameramen in the business, and put under contract a number of promising actors." [3]

He worked with actor George Arliss on Doctor Syn . In 1940, Arliss wrote about Black:

He is so entirely unlike a movie boss: he doesn’t seem to interfere with anyone. It is only by degrees you find out that he has everything under his hand and that he really directs the movements of every department. He is very like a mere businessman, one who believes that it is of no use to lay in a stock of goods that can never produce any return; and that the making of canned pictures should be controlled with the Kune care as the preparation of any other earned goods intended for public consumption. Unless I am much mistaken, Edward Black is going to show us how pictures made in England can be made to pay. [12]

Launder and Gilliat

Black was an advocate of Launder and Gilliat as writers, working with them on The Lady Vanishes (1938) and Night Train to Munich (1940). He gave them their first opportunity as directors.

Gainsborough melodramas

Black produced the first Gainsborough melodrama, The Man in Grey (1943) directed by Leslie Arliss. The movie was a huge success, making stars out of its four leads, Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Stewart Granger and Phyllis Calvert. Black followed it with Fanny By Gaslight, with Calvert, Mason, Granger and Jean Kent, directed by Anthony Asquith.

Black's relationship with Maurice Ostrer was not always easy and he also clashed with the Rank Organisation when they took over Gainsborough. In 1944, Black left Gainsborough to join Alexander Korda. [13]

Last films and death

Black made two films for Korda, A Man About the House (1947) and Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948), which was a commercial failure. Black died of lung cancer on 30 November 1948 at the age of 48, shortly after the premiere of the second film. [14] [15] He was planning to make a film about the police force, To Watch and to Ward. [16]

Partial filmography

Leslie Arliss (director)

Arthur Askey (star)

Anthony Asquith (director)

The Crazy Gang (stars)

Will Fyffe (star)

Tommy Handley (star)

Gordon Harker/Alastair Sim (stars)

Will Hay (star)

Alfred Hitchcock (director)

Alexander Korda (co-producer)

Launder and Gilliat (director/producers)

Carol Reed (director)

Robert Stevenson (director)

Tom Walls (star)



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  1. Gainsborough Pictures at BFI Screenonline
  2. "Edward Black". BFI. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48 By Robert Murphy p34
  4. BRITISH FILM IDOL CASTS ORAL BRICKS: James Mason Says Rank Is Leading the English Movie Industry Into Trouble Outspoken Critic By THOMAS M. PRYOR. New York Times 15 Dec 1946: X6.
  5. Round Table on British Films Cornelius, Henry; Dickinson, Thorold; Havelock-Allan, Anthony; John, Rosamund; Launder, Frank; et al. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 19, Iss. 3, (May 1, 1950): 114-122.
  6. The final reel, The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 27 Sep 2003: B19
  7. 1 2 Edward Black Archived 2016-04-14 at the Wayback Machine at Britmovie
  8. 1 2 Murphy p 6
  9. Murphy p 7
  10. "A Million For British Films". The Age . No. 26135. Victoria, Australia. 21 January 1939. p. 12. Retrieved 6 July 2020 via National Library of Australia.
  11. "Film Gossip From London". The Telegraph . Queensland, Australia. 28 November 1939. p. 16 (SECOND EDITION). Retrieved 6 July 2020 via National Library of Australia.
  12. Arliss, George (1940). My Ten Years in the Studio. p. 311.
  13. Murphy p 11
  14. NIVEN WILL APPEAR IN FILM FOR KORDA: New York Times 17 July 1946: 27
  15. EDWARD BLACK, The New York Times 1 December 1948: 29.
  16. "Record Year Predicted For British Films". The Sydney Morning Herald . No. 34, 010. New South Wales, Australia. 24 December 1946. p. 10 (The Sydney Morning Herald Magazine.). Retrieved 6 July 2020 via National Library of Australia.
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  18. Reid, John Howard (2009). Film Noir, Detective and Mystery Movies on DVD: A Guide to the Best in Suspense. p. 100. ISBN   9781435730106.
  19. Evans, Peter William (2005). Carol Reed. Manchester University Press. p. 175. ISBN   9780719063664.
  20. 1 2 Moss, R (2016). Films of Carol Reed. Springer. p. 288. ISBN   9781349075010.