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Gainsborough Pictures was a Britishmarker film studio based on the south bank of the Regent's Canal, in Poole Street, Hoxtonmarker in the former Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditchmarker, Londonmarker. The studio was active between 1924 and 1951. Built as a power station for the Great Northern & City Railway it was later converted to studios. The former studios were demolished in 2002 and apartments built on the site in 2004. A London Borough of Hackney historical plaque is attached to the building.

History

Gainsborough was founded in 1924 by Daniel Owen Eardley and was a sister company to the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation from 1927, with Michael Balcon as Director of Production for both studios. Whilst Gaumont-British, based at Lime Grove Studiosmarker in Shepherd's Bushmarker produced the 'quality' , Gainsborough mainly produced 'B' movies and melodramas at its Islington Studios. Both studios used continental film practices, especially those from Mutz Greenbaum and screenwriter/director Berthold Viertel, along with others, joined the two studios. BritMovie biography of the studio accessed 15 April 2007

After the departure of Balcon to the British arm of MGM, the Rank Organisation took an interest in Gainsborough and the studio made such popular films as Oh, Mr Porter! (1937). By 1937, Gaumont-British were in financial crisis, and closed their Lime Grove studios, moving all production to the Islington Poole Street studio. During World War II, the tall factory chimney on the site was considered dangerous in the event of bombing, and Gainsborough Studios were evacuated to Lime Grove for the duration of the war.

From 1942 to 1946, a series of morally ambivalent costume melodramas were produced by Gainsborough for the domestic market mostly based on recent popular books by female novelists. These included The Man in Grey (1943), Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944), Fanny by Gaslight (1944), The Wicked Lady (1945) and Caravan, Stewart Granger and Patricia Roc. The studio also made modern-dress comedies and melodramas such as Love Story (1944), Two Thousand Women (1944), Time Flies (starring Tommy Handley, 1944), Bees in Paradise (with Arthur Askey directed by Val Guest, 1944), They Were Sisters (1945), and Easy Money (1948).

Subsequent productions, overseen by Betty Box (who at the time was the only major female producer in British cinema), included Miranda (1948) and the Huggett family series with Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, and Petula Clark. Unhappy with the performance of the studio, Rank closed it down in early 1951.

Demolition

The Lime Grove site was taken over by the BBC in 1949 and used for TV current affairs and other programmes until it closed in 1991. The buildings were demolished in the early 90s, and replaced with housing called Gaumont Terrace and Gainsborough Court.

The former Islington Studios, in Poole Street, remained largely derelict after their closure in 1951 apart from occasional art performances, including two epic Shakespearean productions by the Almeida Theatremarker Company, April–July 2000, directed by Jonathan Kent and starring Ralph Fiennes, and a closing Hitchcock season in October 2003. The final reel - The Guardian September 27, 2003 accessed 15 April 2007

The buildings began to be cleared in 2002, and apartments named Gainsborough Studios were built on the site in 2004, by architects Munkenbeck and Marshall.

References and notes

  1. The plaque reads London Borough of Hackney. The Gainsborough Film Studios 1924–1949. Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Balcon, Ivor Novello, Gracie Fields, “The Lady Vanishes”, “The Wicked Lady” worked and were filmed here
  2. BBC's Old London Studios accessed 15 April 2007
  3. Munkenbeck+Marshall architects accessed 15 April 2007

Bibliography

  • Cook, Pam (ed), Gainsborough Pictures (1997);
  • Harper, Sue, Picturing the Past: the Rise and Fall of the British Costume Film (1994);
  • Harper, Sue, Women in British Cinema (2000).


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