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The Rank Organisation was a Britishmarker entertainment company formed during 1937 and absorbed in 1996 by The Rank Group Plc. It was the largest and most vertically integrated film company in Britain, owning production, distribution and exhibition facilities.

The company's distinctive logo of the Gongman (boxer Bombardier Billy Wells striking a gong) is widely remembered (and would be parodied at various times, including an episode of Gilligan's Island and Chuck Jones' Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Bunny Hugged").


J Arthur Rank was already a powerful miller when he made his somewhat unlilkely start in film-making, financing short religious subjects in line his Methodist beliefs. From these modest origins, the most powerful Britsh film company emerged in 1937 as Rank sought to consolidate his film-making interests.


The company grew quickly, largely through aquisition. Key dates included:

By the late 1940s J Arthur Rank (or the Rank Organisation as it was now called), owned:

Film making

A loose collective of film makers was established under the banner of Independent Producers Ltd. employed some of Britain's greatest directors, such as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, I Know Where I'm Going!), David Lean (Brief Encounter, Great Expectations), Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat (I See a Dark Stranger, The Happiest Days of Your Life), Ken Annakin (Holiday Camp) and Muriel Box (The Seventh Veil).

The Company of Youth, the Rank Organisation acting school often referred to as "The Charm School" was founded in 1945. It launched several careers including those of Donald Sinden, Dirk Bogarde, Diana Dors and Christopher Lee. Although she was not a member of the school, Petula Clark was under contract to Rank for a period of time and starred in a number of films released by the studio, including London Town (1946), one of the costliest flops in British film history. Also under contract to Rank was the Canadian actor Philip Gilbert.

From 1959 to 1969: the company made over 500 weekly short cinema films in a series entitled Look At Life, each film depicting an area of British life.

From the 1950s fewer adventurous films were attempted and solidly commercial ventures, largely aimed at the family market, were made instead. These includes the popular Norman Wisdom comedies, the various Doctor... films and, later on, the Carry On films. However some films of note were produced during this era including: Carve Her Name With Pride, Sapphire and Victim, as well as a clutch of prestige topics such as the coronation of Elizabeth II and filmed performances by The Royal Ballet.


In 1949 a financial crisis forced the Rank Organisation to sell its Lime Grove, and Islington Studios. Beginning that same year, the company bought the Bush Radio manufacturing facility and began to diversify its interests. In the early 1960s Rank took over Murphy Radio to form the Rank Bush Murphy Group, which was eventually sold to Great Universal Stores in 1978.

During the 1950s the British photographer Cornel Lucas set up the Pool Studio at Pinewood Studiosmarker where he photographed many of the movie stars of this era of cinema, such as Marlene Dietrich and David Niven. The official website of Cornel Lucas

J. Arthur Rank stepped down as Managing Director of the Rank Organisation in 1952, but remained as Chairman until 1962. Under the management of Sir John Davis the Rank Organisation closed Independent Producers Ltd. and Denham Studios, and consolidated all of its film production at Pinewood Studiosmarker. In 1956 Rank began a partnership with the Haloid Corporation to form Rank Xerox. Rank became part of the consortium that bid successfully for the ITV south franchise which becomes Southern Television in 1958.

In the late 1950s, Rank set up Rank Records Ltd. (the record label was named Top Rank) and Jaro Records (a jazz subsidiary). In 1961, Top Rank was taken over by EMI, and in 1962 they replaced it with Stateside Records. Rank Audio Visual was created in 1960, bringing together Rank's acquisitions in multimedia, including Bell and Howell (acquired with Gaumont British in 1941), Andrew Smith Harkness Ltd (1952) and Wharfedale Ltd (1958). Subsequent acquisitions included Strand Electric Holdings (1968) and H.J. Leak & Co. (1969).

Later years

In 1995, The Rank Group acquired all the outstanding shares of The Rank Organisation.

See also


  • Geoffrey Macnab, J. Arthur Rank and the British Film Industry, London, Routledge (1993), ISBN 0415072727.
  • Alan Wood, Mr. Rank, London, Hodder & Stoughton (1951).

External links

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