Sight and Sound (2001) - England's dreaming
- article: England's dreaming
- author(s): Tom Ryall
- journal: Sight and Sound (01/Aug/2001)
- issue: volume 11, issue 8, page 30
- journal ISSN: 0037-4806
- publisher: British Film Institute
- keywords: Academy Awards, Alfred Hitchcock, Anna Neagle, Cannes, France, European history, Farley Granger, Frank Launder, Gainsborough Pictures, Gaumont British Picture Corporation Limited, Islington Studios, London, Laurence Olivier, London Film Productions, Margaret Lockwood, Maurice Elvey, Michael Balcon, Michael Powell, Ministry of Information, Motion picture directors & producers, Motion picture industry, Noël Coward, Patricia Hitchcock, Paul Rotha, Pinewood Studios, Ronald Neame, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Sidney Gilliat, Target for Tonight (1941), Tom Ryall, Universal Studios, Victor Saville, War, Warner Brothers
At war with Germany as the 1940s began, the British turned to the cinema, not only for escapist fantasy but also for quality British films that showed more realistic struggles and self-sacrifice than Hollywood's. Ryall examines how wartime and its discontents fueled a new prestige cinema and the reasons audiences still preferred tinsel trash.
At war with Germany as the 1940s began, the British turned to the cinema, not only for escapist fantasy but also for quality British films that showed more realistic struggles and self-sacrifice than Hollywood's. Tom Ryall revisits Blitz-torn London and finds that austerity did not always stretch to the movies
URBAN LEGENDS: TEN CITIES THAT SHOOK CINEMA
It's now a commonplace of film history to identify the 4os as the golden age of British cinema, the point at which British films established a distinctive profile and a national identity. Although many significant early British films were made in places as diverse as Sheffield, Holmfirtn, Bradford, Brighton and Wales, the production industry had been settled in London and its environs since before World War I. In the 205 and 305 a spate of studio building and refurbishment consolidated London's central position. The area in question stretched from Islington to Baling, from Shepherd's Bush to Twickenham, but also included an arc to the north and west of the capital incorporating Denham and Pinewood in Buckinghamshire and the massive complex at Elstree/Borehamwood in Hertfordshire, often referred to as the British Hollywood. In addition, the leading studios had their business headquarters in central London, most of them in Wardour Street in Soho.
The studio structure was in place by the late 305, but in many respects the industry faced a struggle for survival. The decade had ended with production crises at Gaumont-British and Alexander Korda's London Film Productions, a scaling-down of Britishbased production by the American majors and the departure for Hollywood of such key film-makers as Alfred Hitchcock and Victor Saville (a prolific director and producer). The government's decision to close cinemas at the outbreak of World War II, the requisition of some of the studios, the conscription of film workers and the rationing of film stock suggested a bleak future for an industry which had fought for many years to establish itself against the power and popularity of Hollywood. But in fact the war kick-started an aesthetic revival that was to continue to the end of the decade. Fewer films were produced than in the 305 - around 500 compared to more than 1,200 - but critics noted the emergence of what they termed a new 'quality' or 'prestige' cinema. David Lean's superbly repressed English adultery story Brief Encounter (1945) and Carol Reed's post-war black-market thriller The Third Man (19...