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18 August 1900
|Died||30 November 1948 48) (aged|
|Years active||1935 - 1948|
|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.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."
Black specialized in making comedies, thrillers and low-budget musicals.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.
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.
In 1930 Black became an assistant production manager at Shepherd’s Bush and then studio manager at Islington.
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.
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."
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."
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."
In January 1939, Gaumont signed a deal with 20th Century Fox.
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 .
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.He was planning to make a film about the police force, To Watch and to Ward.
James Neville Mason was an English actor. He achieved considerable success in British cinema before becoming a star in Hollywood. He was the top box-office attraction in the UK in 1944 and 1945; his British films included The Seventh Veil (1945) and The Wicked Lady (1945). He starred in Odd Man Out (1947), the first recipient of the BAFTA Award for Best British Film.
Margaret Lockwood, CBE, was an English actress. One of Britain's most popular film stars of the 1930s and 1940s, her film appearances included The Lady Vanishes (1938), Night Train to Munich (1940), The Man in Grey (1943), and The Wicked Lady (1945). She was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress for the 1955 film Cast a Dark Shadow. She also starred in the television series Justice (1971–74).
Gainsborough Pictures was a British film studio based on the south bank of the Regent's Canal, in Poole Street, Hoxton in the former Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch, north London. Gainsborough Studios was active between 1924 and 1951. The company was initially based at Islington Studios, which were built as a power station for the Great Northern & City Railway and later converted to studios.
The Wicked Lady is a 1945 British costume drama film directed by Leslie Arliss and starring Margaret Lockwood in the title role as a nobleman's wife who becomes a highwayman for the excitement. The film had one of the top audiences for a film of its period, 18.4 million.
Sidney Gilliat was an English film director, producer and writer.
Frank Launder was a British writer, film director and producer, who made more than 40 films, many of them in collaboration with Sidney Gilliat.
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The Man in Grey is a 1943 British film melodrama made by Gainsborough Pictures; it is considered to be the first of a series of period costume dramas now known as the "Gainsborough melodramas". It was directed by Leslie Arliss and produced by Edward Black from a screenplay by Arliss and Margaret Kennedy that was adapted by Doreen Montgomery from the 1941 novel The Man in Grey by Eleanor Smith. The film's sets were designed by Walter Murton.
Arthur Crabtree was a British cinematographer and film director. He directed films with comedians such as Will Hay, the Crazy Gang and Arthur Askey and several of the Gainsborough Melodramas.
Leslie Arliss was an English screenwriter and director. He is best known for his work on the Gainsborough melodramas directing films such as The Man in Grey and The Wicked Lady during the 1940s.
Madonna of the Seven Moons is a 1945 British drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree for Gainsborough Pictures and starring Phyllis Calvert, Stewart Granger and Patricia Roc. The film was produced by Rubeigh James Minney, with cinematography from Jack Cox and screenplay by Roland Pertwee. It was one of the Gainsborough melodramas.
Patricia Roc was an English film actress, popular in the Gainsborough melodramas such as Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) and The Wicked Lady (1945), though she only made one film in Hollywood, Canyon Passage (1946). She also appeared in Millions Like Us (1943), Jassy (1945), The Brothers (1947) and When the Bough Breaks (1947).
The Gainsborough melodramas were a sequence of films produced by the British film studio Gainsborough Pictures between 1943 and 1947 which conformed to a melodramatic style. The melodramas were not a film series but an unrelated sequence of films which had similar themes that were usually developed by the same film crew and frequently recurring actors who played similar characters in each. They were mostly based on popular books by female novelists and they encompassed costume, such as The Man in Grey (1943) and The Wicked Lady (1945) and modern-dress, such as Love Story (1944) and They Were Sisters (1945) settings. The popularity of the films with audiences peaked mid-1940s when most of the cinema audiences consisted of mainly women. The influence of the films led to other British producers releasing similarly themed works, such as The Seventh Veil (1945), Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945), Hungry Hill (1947), The White Unicorn (1947), Idol of Paris (1948), and The Reluctant Widow (1950) and often with the talent that made Gainsborough melodramas successful.
Love Story is a 1944 British black-and-white romance film directed by Leslie Arliss and starring Margaret Lockwood, Stewart Granger, and Patricia Roc. Based on a short story by J. W. Drawbell, the film is about a concert pianist who, after learning that she is dying of heart failure, decides to spend her last days in Cornwall. While there, she meets a former RAF pilot who is going blind, and soon a romantic attraction forms. Released in the United States as A Lady Surrenders, this wartime melodrama produced by Gainsborough Pictures was filmed on location at the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno in Cornwall, England.
Harold Huth was a British actor, film director and producer.
The Girl in the News is a 1940 British thriller film directed by Carol Reed and starring Margaret Lockwood, Barry K. Barnes and Emlyn Williams.
Doctor Syn is a 1937 British black-and-white historical dramatic adventure film, directed by Roy William Neill for Gainsborough Pictures. It stars George Arliss, Margaret Lockwood, Graham Moffatt and Ronald Shiner. The film is based on the Doctor Syn novels of Russell Thorndike, set in 18th century Kent. The character of Syn and the events at the film's climax were both softened considerably in comparison to Thorndike's original story.
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.
Maurice Ostrer (1896–1975) was a British film executive. He was best known for overseeing the Gainsborough melodramas. He was head of production at Gainsborough Studios from 1943–46. He resigned from the studio in 1946 after a disagreement with J. Arthur Rank who had taken over the studio.