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Sight and Sound (2014) - London's Hollywood






The Gainsborough Studio in the Silent Years

By Gary Chapman; Edditt Publishing. hardback. £27, ISBN 9781909230132; paperback. £14 99. ISBN 9781909230101

A former power station by the Regent's Canal in North London was an inauspicious setting for what would become the most important British Studio of the 1920s. Dubbed "Hollywood by the canal", the studio that eventually became best known as Gainsborough hosted an impressive array of British and American Jazz Age talent between its development in the wake of the Armistice and a devastating fire that temporarily put it out of commission just as the talkies were taking hold.

The studio was the product of the post-war expansion of the American company Famous Players-Lasky, which formed a British arm in the spring of 1919. FPL acquired the site and set about creating a modem and well-equipped studio facility that even had the ability to dissipate the pervasive London fog that disrupted film production on a regular basis. Personnel were brought over from America, with an energetic production schedule lined up in 1920. Within two years. however, FPL's British programme was struggling. The company began letting out studio space to producers such as George Pearson, Herbert Wilcox and Michael Balcon before withdrawing from UK production entirely, eventually selling up to Baleen's Gainsborough Pictures in 1926.

Gary Chapman's book chronicles, film by film, both the titles produced at the studio from 1920 onwards and those made by the company Gainsborough Pictures(which was founded in 1924), even when these were shot elsewhere. This approach helps build a sense of continuity across pr...

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