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C.M. Woolf


Charles Moss Woolf (1879–1942) was a British film distributor.

He set up W. & F. Film Service in February 1919 with £10,000 of investment, along with S. Freedman, D. Tebbitt and Julius Hagen.[1] By the late 1920s, he had become a chairman of Gainsborough Pictures and a joint managing director of Gaumont-British.[2]

In 1935 he resigned from the Gaumont British Picture Corporation and formed General Film Distributors.

His sons, John and James, also worked in the British film industry.[3]

Alfred Hitchcock

W. & F. Film Service was one of the major film distributors in England during the 1920s and Woolf provided financial backing to Balcon, Freedman & Saville to allow them to make Woman to Woman and The White Shadow, both of which were directed by Graham Cutts with Alfred Hitchcock acting as both an assistant director and the art director.

Most sources state that Woolf felt strongly that Alfred Hitchcock's first three feature films for Michael Balcon's Gainsborough Pictures were too uncommercial and refused to distribute them. Apparently it wasn't until The Lodger received strong trade reviews that he considered distributing Hitchcock's previous two films, The Pleasure Garden and The Mountain Eagle. It is also reported that Graham Cutts was influential in persuading Woolf that Hitchcock's films were unmarketable and that Woolf himself felt the films were too European in style to have mass appeal to a British audience.

When Hitchcock returned to Balcon in the early 1930s and joined Gaumont-British, the director once again clashed with Woolf over The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). According to biographer John Russell Taylor:

Woolf screened the completed Man Who Knew Too Much, and gave as his considered opinion that it was appalling, ridiculous, absurd, and they could not possibly put it out as it was. He announced that it would have to be reshot by Maurice Elvey, now also under contract at Gaumont-British and cheerfully characterized by a colleague of that time as "the worst director in the world". Hitch was practically suicidal, and begged Woolf on his knees to let the film be shown as it was shot. However much he might dislike Hitch, Woolf did recognize the great practical advantage he had for the company — he was a valuable property because investors had heard of him, and so his presence under contract made it easier to raise money. He kept Hitch in suspense for a while, made him wriggle on the hook, then finally, grudgingly agreed. The film opened at the Academy Cinema and had the tremendous success everyone but Woolf had expected, getting wildly enthusiastic reviews and running for ages. But Woolf never learned his lesson: determined to prove he was right, in spite of this evidence to the contrary, he deliberately put the film into release as the bottom half of a double bill, second features being generally booked at a flat £5 fee, so that though the programme it was part of broke attendance records because everyone wanted to see it, the film itself actually lost money.
Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock (1978) by John Russell Taylor, chapter 7


With Hitchcock...

See Also...


  • born 10/Jul/1879 in London
  • married 1912 to ?
  • married 1919 to Gladys E. Capua (b. ~1893)[4]
  • father of John Woolf (b. 1913)[5], James Wolf (b. ~1919)[6] and Rosemary Estelle Woolf (b. 1925)[7]
  • died 31/Dec/1942 at University College Hospital, London
  • probate granted 15/Jun/1943 to John Woolf, Maurice Woolf and George Ivon Woodham Smith (solicitor) — effects worth £94,353 11s. 7d.[8]

Research Notes

  • 1911 Census (aged 32) — address: 1 Tedman House, St Martin in the Fields, London. Working as a furrier.
  • Woolf's son John married Victor Saville's daughter Ann.


Notes & References

  1. "History of British Film (Volume 4): The History of the British Film 1918 - 1929" by Rachael Low
  2. London's Hollywood: The Gainsborough Studio in the Silent Years (2014) by Gary Chapman, chapter 19.
  3. Independent: Obituary for Sir John Woolf
  4. Marriage registered Q1 1919 Marylebone. She was born around 1893 in Southport, Lancashire.
  5. Joined his father in the film industry. Formed Independent Film Distributors with his brother James in 1948. Married 3 times, including to the daughter of Victor Saville. Knighted in 1975. Died 28/Jun/1999.
  6. Probably born 03/Feb/1920. Died 29/May/1966 aged 47.
  7. Became a noted scholar of medieval literature (Wikipedia). Died 1978.
  8. The equivalent figure in 2015 would be around £4,000,000.