Gainsborough Pictures

Last updated

Opening logo Gainsborough Pictures.jpg
Opening logo

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.


Other films were made at Lime Grove and Pinewood Studios. The former Islington studio was converted to flats in 2004 and a London Borough of Hackney historical plaque is attached to the building. [1] The studio is best remembered for the Gainsborough melodramas it produced in the 1940s.

Gainsborough Pictures is now owned by Gregory Motton. [2]


Plaque on the site that housed the Poole Street studio Gainsbrough - London Borough of Hackney Blue Plaque (cropped).JPG
Plaque on the site that housed the Poole Street studio

Gainsborough was founded in 1924 by Michael Balcon and, from 1927, was a sister company to the Gaumont British, with Balcon as Director of Production for both studios. Whilst Gaumont-British, based at Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd's Bush, produced the "quality" pictures, Gainsborough mainly produced 'B' movies and melodramas at its Islington Studios. Both studios used continental film practices, especially those from Germany, with Alfred Hitchcock being encouraged by Balcon — who had links with UFA — to study there and make multilingual co-production films with UFA, before World War II. In the 1930s, actors Elisabeth Bergner and Conrad Veidt, art director Alfred Junge, cinematographer Mutz Greenbaum and screenwriter/director Berthold Viertel, along with others, joined the two studios. [3]

The studio's opening logo, of a lady (Celia Bird then Glennis Lorimer) in a Georgian era period costume, sitting in an ornate frame, and turning and smiling, was based on the portrait of Sarah Siddons by Thomas Gainsborough. The short piece of music was written by Louis Levy and called the Gainsborough Minuet.

After the departure of Balcon to MGM-British, the Rank Organisation gained an interest in Gainsborough and the studio made such popular films as Oh, Mr Porter! (1937) and Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938). By 1937, Gaumont-British was in financial crisis, and closed its Lime Grove studios, moving all production to the Islington Poole Street studio. However, the tall factory chimney on the site was considered dangerous in the event of bombing during World War II, and so Gainsborough Studios was evacuated to Lime Grove for the duration of hostilities. [4]

From 1943 to 1946, Gainsborough produced a series of studio-bound costume melodramas for the domestic market, which became known collectively as the Gainsborough melodramas. They were mostly based on recent popular books by female novelists. Prominent titles included The Man in Grey (1943), Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944), Fanny by Gaslight (1944), The Wicked Lady (1945) and Caravan (1946). The films featured a stable of leading British actors, among them Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Stewart Granger and Patricia Roc. The studio also made modern-dress comedies and melodramas such as Love Story (1944), Two Thousand Women (1944), Time Flies (starring Tommy Handley, 1944), Bees in Paradise (with Arthur Askey directed by Val Guest, 1944), They Were Sisters (1945), and Easy Money (1948).

Subsequent productions, overseen by Betty Box (who at the time was the only female producer in British cinema), included the neo-realist Holiday Camp (1947), Miranda (1948) and the Huggett family series, with Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, and Petula Clark, who had been introduced in Holiday Camp. Unhappy with the performance of the studio, Rank closed it down in early 1949. [5] Production was concentrated at Pinewood Studios. Although films continued to be made there under the Gainsborough banner, that quickly ceased, and no further Gainsborough films were released after 1951. It was revived in 1987 and made the television film, A Hazard of Hearts .[ citation needed ]


The original Lime Grove site was taken over by the BBC in 1949 and remained in use until it was closed in 1991. The buildings were demolished in the early 1990s, and have been since replaced with housing presently called Gaumont Terrace and Gainsborough Court.

The former Islington Studios, in Poole Street, remained largely derelict after their closure in 1949 apart from occasional art performances, including two epic Shakespearean productions by the Almeida Theatre Company, April–July 2000, directed by Jonathan Kent and starring Ralph Fiennes, and a closing Hitchcock season in October 2003. [6]

Alfred Hitchcock sculpture at the Gainsborough Studios apartments Alfred Hitchcock sculpture, Gainsborough Studios, London, 2007.jpg
Alfred Hitchcock sculpture at the Gainsborough Studios apartments

The buildings began to be cleared in 2002, and apartments named Gainsborough Studios were built on the site in 2004, by architects Munkenbeck and Marshall. [7]


References and notes

  1. The plaque reads London Borough of Hackney. The Gainsborough Film Studios 1924–1949. Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Balcon, Ivor Novello, Gracie Fields, "The Lady Vanishes", "The Wicked Lady" worked and were filmed here
  2. "GAINSBOROUGH PICTURES LIMITED people - Find and update company information - GOV.UK".
  3. BritMovie biography of the studio Archived 22 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved 15 April 2007
  4. BBC's Old London Studios. Retrieved 15 April 2007
  5. "RANK FILM FIRMS WILL BE MERGED: British Leader to Consolidate All Holdings and Establish One Major Company". New York Times. 30 March 1949. p. 30.
  6. The final reelThe Guardian 27 September 2003 Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved 15 April 2007
  7. Munkenbeck+Marshall architects. Retrieved 15 April 2007 Archived 27 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine


Coordinates: 51°32′09″N0°05′19″W / 51.5357°N 0.0886°W / 51.5357; -0.0886

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.

Lime Grove Studios Former film studios located in London

Lime Grove Studios was a film, and later television, studio complex in Shepherd's Bush, West London, England.

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 Rank Group plc. The company itself became a wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox and was renamed XRO Limited in 1997.

Michael Balcon English film producer

Sir Michael Elias Balcon was an English film producer known for his leadership of Ealing Studios in West London from 1938 to 1955. Under his direction, the studio became the one of the most important British film studios of the day. In an industry short of Hollywood-style moguls, Balcon emerged as a key figure, and an obdurately British one too, in his benevolent, somewhat headmasterly approach to the running of a creative organization. He is known for his leadership, and his guidance of young Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Junge was a German-born production designer who spent a large part of his career working in the British film industry.

Charles Herbert Frend was an English film director and editor, best known for his films produced at Ealing Studios. He began directing in the early 1940s and is known for such films as Scott of the Antarctic (1948) and The Cruel Sea (1953).

Frederick Penrose "Pen" Tennyson was a British film director whose promising career was cut short when he died in a plane crash. Tennyson gained experience as an assistant director to Alfred Hitchcock in several of his British films during the 1930s. Tennyson directed three films between 1939 and his death in 1941.

The Gaumont-British Picture Corporation produced and distributed films and operated a cinema chain in the United Kingdom. It was established as an offshoot of the Gaumont Film Company of France.

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."

Patricia Roc British actress

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).

Louis Levy British composer

Louis Levy was an English film music director and conductor, who worked in particular on Alfred Hitchcock and Will Hay films. He was born in London and died in Slough, Berkshire.

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.

Victor Saville English film director

Victor Saville was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He directed 39 films between 1927 and 1954. He also produced 36 films between 1923 and 1962.

<i>The Blackguard</i> 1925 film written by Alfred Hitchcock

The Blackguard (1925) is a British-German drama film directed by Graham Cutts and starring Jane Novak, Walter Rilla, and Frank Stanmore.

Islington Studios Film studios located in London

Islington Studios, often known as Gainsborough Studios, were a British film studio located on the south bank of the Regent's Canal, in Poole Street, Hoxton in the former Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch, London between 1919 and 1949. The studios are closely associated with Gainsborough Pictures which was based there for most of the studio's history. During its existence Islington worked closely with its sister Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd's Bush and many films were made partly at one studio and partly at the other. Amongst the films made at the studios were Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, Will Hay comedies and Gainsborough Melodramas.

Reginald Poynton Baker, MC FCA FRSA was a British film producer and a major contributor to the development of the British film industry. Along with his younger brother Leslie Forsyth, he played a decisive role in establishing Ealing Studios. He was the father of Conservative MP Peter Baker. Baker died in Australia aged 89.

British and Dominions Imperial Studios 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.

<i>Things Are Looking Up</i> (film) 1935 British film

Things Are Looking Up is a 1935 British musical comedy film directed by Albert de Courville, produced by Michael Balcon for Gaumont British and starring Cicely Courtneidge, Max Miller and William Gargan. It was made at Islington Studios by British Gaumont, an affiliate of Gainsborough Pictures. The film's sets were designed by Alex Vetchinsky. Courtneidge plays a dual role as the sisters Bertha and Cicely Fytte. Bertha is a dour schoolteacher, while the bubbly Cicely runs a nearby circus. When Bertha surprisingly elopes, Cicely takes her place at the school to prevent her from getting the sack. It was the film debut for Vivien Leigh.