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The Times (22/Oct/1977) - Sir Michael Balcon

(c) The Times (22/Oct/1977)


Mr Victor Saville writes:

As a lifelong friend and coworker of Mick Balcon, there are important contributions he made to British film production that are well worth recording.

When we went from silent films into talkies it was an entirely different ball-game and we were faced with new techniques, new storytelling, new everything.

Mick, as the executive producer of the newly formed Gaumont British Group, attained his full capacity.

In early days, films in England had grown out of the fairground. Mick cast his net wider. He researched the Oxford and Cambridge, and the other mushrooming group of film societies.

Robert Stephenson, Pen Tennyson, Ivor Montagu, Ian Dalrymple, Adrian Brunei, Sidney Gilliat, Angus MacPhail, came into British film production under Mick's direction in the early thirties. With Hitchcock, Walter Ford and myself, Mick forged the best production team that British films have ever enjoyed.

The Thirty-nine Steps, Rome Express, The Secret Agent, I was a Spy, The Good Companions, the Jessie Matthews and Hulbert and Courtneidge musicals, are just a sample of his taste and encouragement.

Man of Aran was something special. Reluctantly made at Mick's insistence, it was known for years as "Balcon's Folly". Even when this perfect example of Robert Flaherty's work was completed, the theatre side of Gaumont British refused to take it. It took five years for this masterpiece to recover its paltry cost of £20,000.

In those days there were no text books on picture-making. We invented our own techniques and no one contributed more to this knowledge than Mick. This is so exemplified by his later work in the Ealing films.

It, most importantly of all, founded a technical base that later attracted the American film industry, used to the best, to come and make films in England.