The Lord Rank
|22/23 December 1888
|29 March 1972 83) (aged
|Founder of the Rank Organisation
Joseph Arthur Rank, 1st Baron Rank (22/23 December 1888 – 29 March 1972) was an English industrialist who was head and founder of the Rank Organisation.
Rank was born on 22 or 23 December 1888 at Kingston upon Hull in England into a Victorian family environment, which was dominated by his father Joseph Rank who had built a substantial flour milling business. He was educated at The Leys School in Cambridge. Joseph is reported to have told his son Arthur that he was "a dunce at school" and that the only way that he could succeed in life would be in his father's flour mill.
J. Arthur ventured on his own with Peterkins Self-Raising Flour, but when that business failed he returned to work for his father. That was the business (Joseph Rank Limited) that he later inherited and which became known as Rank Hovis McDougall (now owned by British food conglomerate Premier Foods).
Rank was a devout member of the Methodists and in his middle age he taught at Sunday School to which he began to show religious films. This practice expanded to other churches and schools and it led to his formation of the Religious Film Society in 1933to which he then distributed films that he had also made. His first production was called Mastership.
When the Methodist Times newspaper began to complain about the negative influence that British and American films shown in Britain were having on family life, their editorial was answered by the London Evening News who suggested that instead of complaining, the Methodist Church should provide a solution. Rank took up the challenge and via an introduction by a young film producer named John Corfield, he discussed both the problem and a solution with Lady Yule of Bricket Wood. The net result of these meetings was the formation of the British National Films Company.
The first commercial production by this company was Turn of the Tide (1935), a film based upon a 1932 novel by Leo Walmsley called Three Fevers. Having created their film, British National then had to get it distributed and exhibited, but this proved to be more difficult. Some commercial screens began showing Turn of the Tide as a second feature, but this was not enough exposure for the company to make a profit.
Having first created a film production company and having made a movie at another studio, Rank, Lady Yule and John Corfield began talking to Charles Boot who had recently bought the estate of Heatherden Hall at Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, for the purpose of turning it into a movie studio that would rival those in Hollywood.
In 1935, the trio became owner-operators of Pinewood Film Studios. Lady Yule later sold her shares to Rank while John Corfield resigned from its board of directors.
The problems encountered in the distribution of Turn of the Tide were addressed when Rank discovered that the people who controlled the British film industry had ties to the American movie industry and that for all practical purposes he was shut out of his own domestic market. American films occupied 80% of British screen time during the era before World War II.
In 1935 Rank arrived at a solution to his distribution problems. Because the middlemen controlled the distribution pipeline from production to exhibition, he decided to buy a large part of both the distribution and exhibition systems. He began by forming a partnership with film maker C. M. Woolf to form General Film Distributors, which in 1936 was incorporated in Rank's General Cinema Finance Corporation but continued to handle all distribution for the Rank organisation until 1955, when it was renamed J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors.
In 1939 Rank consolidated his film production interests in both the Pinewood Film Studios and the Denham Film Studios. In 1938 Rank bought the Odeon Cinemas chain and the Amalgamated Studios in Borehamwood, although the latter were never used as film studios by Rank. In 1941, it absorbed Gaumont-British,which owned 251 cinemas, and the Lime Grove Studios, (later bought by BBC Television) and acquired the Paramount Cinemas chain, so that by 1942 the Rank Organisation owned 619 cinemas. Other interests were acquired (such as the Bush Radio company in 1949) which would be added to the interests in a few more years) within a new company called the Rank Organisation. Rank retired as Chairman in 1962 and was succeeded by John Davis, who had been Managing Director since 1948.
During the 1940s, the companies Rank controlled produced some of the finest British films of the period, including: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), Henry V (1944), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), and The Red Shoes (1948). From the 1950s, fewer adventurous film projects were attempted and Rank concentrated on producing solidly commercial ventures, mainly aimed at the family market. These include the popular Norman Wisdom comedies and the Doctor... films. However some more serious films were produced during this era including: Carve Her Name With Pride (1958), A Night to Remember (also 1958) and Victim (1961), as well as a clutch of prestige topics such as the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 and filmed performances by The Royal Ballet.
Although his critics claimed that many of the films that he had produced under the name of Rank were not exactly in keeping with his original intention of producing "family-friendly" films (which John Davis had said was company policy)to challenge American competition, he nevertheless kept to his core beliefs. To that end in 1953 he set up the J. Arthur Rank Group Charity to promote Christian belief. The charity later became known as The Rank Foundation. He was a governor of The Peckham Experiment in 1949.
In 1957 J. Arthur Rank was raised to the peerage as Baron Rank, of Sutton Scotney in the County of Southampton (Sutton Scotney is a small village between Andover and Winchester in Hampshire).
Rank and his wife were philanthropists who performed a lot of charitable work, and in 1953 they founded the J. Arthur Rank Group Charity, now The Rank Foundation. The Foundation continues to support activities which encourage, develop and support young people, and other disadvantaged groups. It also supports activities promoting Christian principles through media such as film. As of July 2020 [update] there are three chairpersons of the orgnaisation: Rank’s son-in-law, Robin Cowen, and his grandsons Fred Packard and Joey Newton.
Donations were made from The Rank Foundation to endow The Rank Prize Funds, established shortly before Rank's death, on 16 February 1972. The two Funds, the Human and Animal Nutrition and Crop Husbandry Fund and the Optoelectronics Fund, support sciences reflecting Rank's business interests through his "connection with the flour-milling and cinema and electronics industries", and also because Rank believed that they would be of great benefit to humanity. There are two Rank Prizes, and the Funds also recognise, support and foster excellence among young people in the two fields of nutrition and optoelectronics. The Rank Prize for Optoelectronics supports, encourages, and rewards researchers working at the cutting edge of optoelectronics research,initially (from 1976) awarded annually, now a biennial prize worth £30,000. The Rank Prize for Nutrition was awarded at various intervals since 1976, but now also awarded biennially, and worth £40,000.
Inspired by his personal knowledge of the Brazilian Fundação Estudar, the Rank Fellowshipwas created in 2003 by Rank's eldest grandson, Fred Arthur Rank Packard, who became Chairman of the Rank Foundation in 2000. Fred was one of the founders of the Brazilian investment banking firm Banco Garantia, along with Jorge Paulo Lemann, Marcel Telles and Carlos Alberto Sicuperia.
Rank married Nell (1890-1971), and they had two daughters, Shelagh (who was married first to Fred Packard who lived in Hollywood, and then to Robin Cowen) and Ursula (born 1920).When he died in March 1972, aged 83, his barony became extinct.
J. Arthur Rank's name was parodied on the PBS children's educational TV show The Electric Company as J. Arthur Crank (voiced and later performed by Jim Boyd), a character wearing a plaid shirt, suspenders and a porkpie hat, who was in a perpetually cranky mood (hence his name)whenever he interrupted sketches to complain when spellings or pronunciations confused him or when he was mistaken for someone else.
"J. Arthur Rank" has also been used as cockney rhyming slang, both for "bank" and "wank" (slang for masturbation), typically shortened to "J. Arthur" or just "Arthur".In golf, especially in the United Kingdom, a "J. Arthur" is slang for a shank.
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, 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.
Richard Lester Liebman is a retired American film director based in the United Kingdom, famous for his comedic and campy tone style of shooting movies and for his work in both USA and UK cinema.
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.
The British Film Institute (BFI) is a film and television charitable organisation which promotes and preserves film-making and television in the United Kingdom. The BFI uses funds provided by the National Lottery to encourage film production, distribution, and education. It is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and partially funded under the British Film Institute Act 1949.
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 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.
Annie Henrietta Yule, Lady Yule was a British film financier and a breeder of Arabian horses. She co-founded the British National Films Company and Hanstead Stud, and commissioned the superyachts of her day.
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.
Sir John Woolf and his brother James Woolf were British film producers. John and James founded the production companies Romulus Films and Remus Films, which were active during the 1950s and 1960s, and the distribution company Independent Film Distributors, which was active 1950–59 and handled the UK distribution of films such as The African Queen and Gift Horse, as well as several films made by their two production companies.
Sir John Henry Harris Davis CVO was an English businessman and accountant. He was the managing director, later chairman, of the Rank Organisation.
Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC), originally British International Pictures (BIP), was a British film production, distribution and exhibition company active from 1927 until 1970 when it was absorbed into EMI. ABPC also owned approximately 500 cinemas in Britain by 1943, and in the 1950s and 60s owned a station on the ITV television network. The studio was partly owned by Warner Bros. from about 1940 until 1969; the American company also owned a stake in ABPC's distribution arm, Warner-Pathé, from 1958. It formed one half of a vertically integrated film industry duopoly in Britain with the Rank Organisation.
Gate Studios was one of the many studios known collectively as Elstree Studios in the town of Borehamwood, England. Opened in 1928, the studios were in use until the early 1950s. The studios had previously been known as Whitehall Studios, Consolidated Studios, J.H. Studios and M.P. Studios.
Major John Sewell Courtauld, was an English Conservative Party politician.
Sparrows Can't Sing is a 1963 British kitchen sink comedy film. Based on a 1960 play, Sparrers Can't Sing, it was directed by Joan Littlewood and was from a story by Stephen Lewis. The producer was Donald Taylor and the original music by James Stevens, incidental music was composed by Stanley Black. The play, also by Stephen Lewis, was first performed at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop in the Theatre Royal Stratford East.
General Film Distributors (GFD), later known as J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors and Rank Film Distributors Ltd., was a British film distribution company based in London. It was active between 1935 and 1996, and from 1937 it was part of the Rank Organisation.
Brighton Rock is a 1948 British gangster film noir directed by John Boulting and starring Richard Attenborough as violent gang leader Pinkie Brown, Rose Brown as the innocent girl he marries, and Ida Arnold as an amateur sleuth investigating a murder he committed.
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" and "one of the greatest figures in British film history, the maker of stars like Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, John Mills and Stewart Granger. He was also one of the very few producers whose films, over a considerable period, made money." 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."
The Calendar is a black and white 1948 British drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree and starring Greta Gynt, John McCallum, Raymond Lovell and Leslie Dwyer. It is based on the 1929 play The Calendar and subsequent novel by Edgar Wallace. A previous version had been released in 1931.
Everything Happens to Me is a 1938 British comedy film directed by Roy William Neill and starring Max Miller, Chili Bouchier and H. F. Maltby. It was made at Teddington Studios by the British subsidiary of Warner Brothers The film's sets were designed by the art directors Peter Proud and Michael Relph.
The Company of Youth was an acting school for young contract players for the Rank Organisation who were being groomed for stardom. It was commonly known as the Rank Charm School.
The Rank Prizes comprise the Rank Prize for Optoelectronics and the Rank Prize for Nutrition. The prizes recognise, reward and encourage researchers working in the respective fields of optoelectronics and nutrition.
Published online... 31 January 2011PDF