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The Times (04/Oct/1940) - Obituary: John Maxwell

(c) The Times (04/Oct/1940)



Mr. John Maxwell, chairman and managing director of the Associated British Picture Corporation, Limited, of Rockwood, Brook, Surrey, died yesterday at the age of 63. He had been ill for some time.

He enjoyed a deservedly high reputation for sound financial insight. He employed conservative and prudent methods and avoided the excesses from which a few years ago some sections of the trade, particularly on the producing side, suffered. Actually, the A.B.P. group has always been more interested in the exhibiting than in the producing side of the business.

Forty years ago John Maxwell was a solicitor with a steady family clientele in Glasgow; today, the corporation of which he was chairman and managing director has assets of over £50,000,000 and controls a circuit of theatres which is the second largest in the world. In 1912 he entered the cinema business by acquiring an interest in a small Glasgow picture house; later he controlled over 20 cinemas in Scotland. In 1918 he entered the renting side of the business by forming a company known as Waverley Films, of which Mr. Arthur Dent was managing director. That company distributed independent pictures throughout Scotland. Waveriey Films made considerable headway and was soon known as the leading independent distributing company North of the Tweed. They brought to Scotland pictures starring such old favourites as Robert McKin, Louis Glaum, Sessue Hayakawa, Wallace Beery, Alice Brady, and Lila Lee. During that period Mr. Dent was acquiring pictures from Wardour Films, of London, and as the result of an interview he arranged between Mr. Maxwell and Mr. Henry Hibbert, Mr. Maxwell acquired control of Wardour Films. At a later period he obtained the rights of the Ufa product for Great Britain, which included such outstanding films as Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Emit Jannings's Vaudeville, and Lia de Putti's Manon Lescaut. In 1924 Maxwell sent Mr. Dent to London as sales manager for Wardour Films and later appointed him as managing director. In 1925 Maxwell himself came to London and in 1926 acquired the Elstree Studios. In 1927 he floated British International Pictures in order to develop British film production and film distribution. John Maxwell had an idea -- he foresaw Elstree as the home of British pictures and financed some of the earliest films that were produced. Among pictures made at Elstree in the silent days were A Little Bit of Fluff, starring Sid Chaplin, Moulin Rouge, and Piccadilly, adapted from a story by Arnold Bennett, directed by A. E. Dupont and starring Gilda Gray. Since the advent of sound, outstanding pictures such as Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail, Atlantic, the first bilingual talking picture to be produced in Britain, Ian Hay's The Middle Watch, Maid of the Mountains, with Harry Welchman, Richard Tauber's Blossom Time, and many others were'sponsored by him.

During the whole of this period John Maxwell was acquiring cinemas in various parts of the country and in 1938 he floated Associated British Cinemas, Limited, which today controls over 500 theatres, most of which are modern structures situated in busy thoroughfares. 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. He was considered by many in the United States, as well as in Great Britain, as the most outstanding personality in the British film industry. He leaves a wife and seven children.