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John Maxwell


John Maxwell (1879–1940) was a film financier and cinema owner, born in Glasgow, Scotland. Trained as a solicitor, he began acquiring a chain of cinemas in the early 1910s and then set up Waverley Films as a regional distributor for Wardour Films Ltd.

He married Catherine Scott Wilson in November 1904 and they several children.[1]

By 1925, Maxwell had taken over Wardour and had relocated himself to London.

In 1927 he purchase Elstree Studios and established British International Pictures with the intention of taking advantage of the recent Cinematograph Films Act of 1927. He began recruiting international talent, including German director E.A. Dupont, Chinese actress Anna May Wong and rising star, Alfred Hitchcock.

After initially planning to focus on international large-scale silent films, such as Dupont's Atlantic (1929), the success of Hitchcock's moderately low-budget talkie Blackmail in 1929 persuaded Maxwell to concentrate production on low-budget films for the British market. He then moved away from the day-to-day running of the studio, in order to build up a national chain of cinemas under the name Associated British Cinemas (ABC), and placed Walter Mycroft in charge of BIP.

In the early 1930s, Associated British Cinemas owned over 160 cinemas and Maxwell consolidated ABC with BIP, Wardour Films and British Pathé to form the Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC). By the late 1930s, the company had expanded to own nearly 500 cinemas.

Maxwell's health declined after a diagnosis of diabetes in 1937 and he died in October 1940.[2]

In his obituary, The Times correspondent stated that "Maxwell brought to production vision, foresight, and culture and on the cinema side he believed in giving the public the best of pictures available, plus comfort and luxury."[3]


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  • born 11/Dec/1879 in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, Scotland
  • son of Agnes Maxwell (b. ~1856)[4]
  • brother of Louisa Maxwell (b. ~1875)
  • died 02/Oct/1940 at Rockwood House, Brook, Godalming, Surrey[5]


  • married 24/Nov/1904 to Catherine Scott Wilson (b. ~1880)[6] in Glasgow, Scotland

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Notes & References

  1. The couple likely had 8 children, 7 of whom were still alive at the time Maxwell died in 1940.
  2. Maxwell's age at death was reported as 63, but he would have actaully been 60 years old.
  3. The Times (04/Oct/1940) - Obituary: John Maxwell
  4. According to the 1881 Census, Agnes was unmarried. If her two children were born in wedlock, then her husband had died before 1881. Agnes worked as a laundress.
  5. Some sources state 03/Oct/1940, so he likely died during the night and his death was announced on 3rd October. Rookwood House hit the news in 1999 during the corruption scandal surrounding Pakistan's Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.
  6. Born in Bothwell, Lanarkshire. Daughter of John Brownlie Wilson (b. ?) and Margaret Wilson (b. ~1855) née Meikle. Died 1951 aged 71 in Cove, Dunbartonshire.