October 20, 2014

Directors

Maurice Elvey [William Folkard] (1887-1967) b. Stockton-on-Tees, England

Maurice Elvey

The most productive British director in history, Elvey had an eye for what would make a commercial film, an instinct which only began to fail him towards the very end of his long career. Some of his films, although rarely grand critical successes, were extremely popular with the public, especially in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when such films as The Flag Lieutenant (1926), Hindle Wakes (1927), The Flight Commander (1927), Quinneys (1927), Balaclava (1928) and Sally in Our Alley (1931) helped lay the foundations of the popular British cinema for the next decade. Elvey was a product of the impoverished north-east England in the late 19th century. He was out at work, after minimal education, before the century was over, but bettered himself as an actor at 17. After becoming a stage director with the Adelphi Play Society, he turned to films with the boom in the industry that took place in 1912-13. Elvey made some of the earliest British feature-length movies such as The Great Gold Robbery (1913), The Suicide Club (1914) and an early version of the old barnstormer Maria Marten (1913). He was one time married to the prominent film and stage actress Isobel Elsom – they met on The Wandering Jew (1923) – and shortly after this went to Hollywood where he gained valuable experience directing several medium-budget films. Years later, Miss Elsom was also to go Hollywood where she became a character star. As the years rolled by, Elvey piled a huge list of credits making films for all occasions and decades. Even in the 1950s when his films were doing poorly at a box-office, the lowbrow farces that he made actually anticipated the craze for Carry On films – by only a few years – showing that Elvey had not altogether lost touch with the public. Only the loss of eye and failing health brought about his retirement at the age of 70.



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