February 27, 2017


Betty E. Box (1920-1999) b. Beckenham, Kent, England.

Betty E. Box

Betty Box was one of the most prolific British producers of the post-war years, and one of the most undervalued. She started her career as a commercial artist, but during World War II was invited by her brother Sydney Box to work for Verity Films, making documentaries for the War Office. By the end of the war she had 10 units working for her – a testament to her organisational abilities. She helped Sydney when he moved to Riverside Studios, where he made the unexpected box-office sensation The Seventh Veil (1945), and followed him to Gainsborough Studios in late 1946. "My instructions were to try to do between four and six features a year," she remembered. "It was a tacky little studio. We were making films there in the winter when we had power cuts, and I had to hire a generator to get any juice into the studio." Her Gainsborough days yielded such titles as the mermaid movie Miranda (1948) and Patricia Roc film When the Bough Breaks (1947). It was at Pinewood, though, that she earned her reputation as Betty Box-Office. Starting with The Clouded Yellow (1951) she and her director partner Ralph Thomas were responsible for a string of hits. "Here is freshness, here is vitality’, trumpeted the trade press when Doctor in the House (1954) did record business. Rank Organisation boss John Davis insisted she carry on making ‘Doctor…’ films when she and Thomas would have preferred more challenging material. "No, I didn’t want to do them," she later admitted, "but I did them willingly in as much as they made money." She had an eye for talent, introducing Brigitte Bardot to British audiences in Doctor at Sea (1955), and always brought her films in on time and on budget. As she said, "I don’t think film is a medium for social statement. Its raison detre is to entertain." This unpretentious philosophy (shared by her husband Peter Rogers, producer of the ‘Carry On…’ films) ensured critics seldom gave her the credit she deserved.

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