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Thread: Rank gong men

  1. #1
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    Did Billy Wells have a successor (or successors) in terms of 'gong-bangers' at the beginning of Rank films?

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    Bit of history first Bombardier Billy Wells fought for the European Light Heavyweight title twice in 1913, being beaten on both occasions by Georges Carpentier knocked out in the 4th and 1st rounds respectively.



    As for the film bit, sadly I don't know, if memory serves there where three of them, it seems incredible after all this time that Billy Wells is the one we all remember

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    In actual fact it seems that Billy Wells struck a papier mache gong the sound was actually made by percussionist James Blades striking a real Chinese gong.

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    Despite not getting into Europe, Billy Wells remains the longest-reigning British heayweight boxing champion (1911-1919) he also acted in bit parts in a many silent films and talkies including FIND THE LADY (1936), OLD MOTHER RILEY DETECTIVE (1943) and THE BEGGAR'S OPERA (1953) with Lauence Olivier. He was the first man to bang the Rank gong and had a nunber of successors, mainly body-builders, whose names don't seem to have been recorded.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Billy Wells

    Phil Nieman

    Ken Richmond

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    Thanks DB7. Do you know of any sources where I an find more information on these people (Nieman/Richmond)? There doesn't appear to be anything on the web...

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    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Kenneth Richmond under freestyle wrestling - heavyweight division: 1952 Olympics

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    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    What's the first picture you see?



    Sean Macaulay tells the stories behind some of the most famous images in the movies — the studio logos shown before the main attraction



    THE Rank Organisation may no longer be active in the film business — it sold off its DVD wing last year to focus on other concerns, such as the Hard Rock Café chain — but the reverberations of its opening logo still continue. The famous image of the shiny muscle man banging the gong will echo anew with the release of The Rank Collection, a 70th-anniversary boxed set of Rank classics, on July 18.

    The gong can be seen in the collection at the start of such films as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 version of The 39 Steps, Genevieve, starring Dinah Sheridan, Kenneth More (and some vintage cars), and Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes and A Matter of Life and Death.



    The Rank logo is at the top of the pile of British studio insignia, so famous in its day that it was recognised by 94 per cent of the public. Its majestic image of strength and exoticism conjures up the last hurrah of imperial confidence, even if that didn’t always translate into the quality of the films.



    Unlike most brand names, a memorable logo is not essential for a successful studio. But there was something irresistible about the Rank sequence, the way the gong was hit not once, but twice, like a summons to the temple.



    Especially when some of the contemporary logos are so irritating. My nominee for most annoying studio logo goes to DreamWorks’ simpering boy-in-the-moon sequence with its fluffy clouds, cloying, plucked harp and wistful, faraway fishing ending. It’s all so yucky and unassuming.



    How much more thrilling is the unabashed showmanship of the roaring MGM lion or the drumroll and horns of Twentieth Century Fox.



    There are many logos that have gone the way of their studios. The monolithic eagle of Republic Pictures is no more, as is the beeping RKO “globe and radio tower” logo. One misses too the inviting white pillared mansion of Selznick International, with its fluttering branches and shadows. It is also a rare pleasure to catch the logo of Edward Small Productions, where the letters



    S-M-A-L-L are carved out of rock as big as Mount Rushmore.



    Without question, a great logo and fanfare definitely add that extra thrill of anticipation when the lights go dim and curtains open. Here then is the story behind some of the great movie logos.



    J. ARTHUR RANK — THE GOLDEN GONG MAN



    Carl Dane, a 6ft 5in (1.96m) strongman, was the first gong-banger, starting in 1932 and banging on until 1948. Because of deteriorating film stock in the early days, the sequence had to be refilmed every three years. It was no simple task either, often taking several weeks to get right, thanks to the bronze make-up covering Dane from head to foot. “The perspiration would make it streak and we’d have to start all over again,” he remembered.



    He spent his early life in the circus ring as part of an acrobatic act where he was billed as the “Boy Hercules”. As an adult he was so strong that he became the first man to pull a London double-decker bus with his teeth. But ironically the gong he pounded so impressively was made of nothing but papier- mâché.



    The noise was created by the percussive genius of James Blades, also famous for the “V-for-victory” Morse code signal broadcast by the BBC during the Second World War. Blades used a Chinese instrument called a tam tam for the Rank gong noise.



    Dane was superseded as the Golden Gong man by Bombardier Billy Wells in 1948. Wells was the first heavyweight to win the Lonsdale Belt (in 1911) and to have a beer named after him. But it was Dane who was considered the definitive Rank icon. “It is an extraordinary thing,” he said years afterwards. “That one episode has haunted me all my life. But I just did it for the money.”

  9. #9
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    One of my favourite logos was the one used by Miracle Films a small British Distributor operating in the 1950s who specialised in zero budget horror films, nudist and sexploitation films and other rip-offs.

    Their logo was a most impressive coat of arms carved on a castle wall surrmounted by their name Miracle Films, but the effect was somewhat undermined by the slogan that then appeared

    "If its a Good Picture -- Its a Miracle! ".

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    One of my firm favourites was Anglo Amalgamated Film Distributors, with Atlas holding up the world on his shoulders. It was a drawing in the 1950’s, but had changed to a real muscle man with the world on his shoulders by 1961. The logo also underwent a number of changes in the title music, all of them impressive. And who could ever forget the Pearl & Dean temple used between 1953 and 1968, with it’s impressive music, “Grand Vista” by Trevor Duncan.

  11. #11
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    One of my favourites was the ATP (Associated Talking Pictues) nymph, god (or whatever) with the trumpets, that announced many a George Formby film.



    ...and Eros films, with their name with wings either side



    There's loads more - the more obscure they are, the more interesting, in my opinion



    rgds

    Rob

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    Although most films shown on television or released on video or DVD have their original trademark logos left on the beginning, one that never gets shown is Associated British Pathe, with a cockrel on it. When the distributors name changed to Warner-Pathe around 1960, the Associated British Pathe trade mark seems to have just disappeared. Try to find a copy of The Moonraker or Ice Cold in Alex, for instance, with an ABP logo on the beginning.



    This is odd, because although Anglo Amalgamated no longer exists as far as I know, all their films still have the famous logo on the beginning. So why is it that the Associated British Pathe logo is nowhere to be seen on any copy of their films?

  13. #13
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    A bit off thread but David has reminded me of the old cameraman on a crane that used to be on the roof of the front office at Elstree. I would watch it move up and down from the top deck of the 107 bus. Ahh shame, all gone now.

  14. #14
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    Originally posted by DB7@Jun 30 2005, 08:50 AM

    One misses too the inviting white pillared mansion of Selznick International, with its fluttering branches and shadows.

    Very nice article. Although the Selznick logo is long gone, the mansion remains. You can see the white pillars from the road in Culver City as you drive into or past the Culver City Studios, once the home of Selznick International -- still very much a working office building on the lot.

  15. #15
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Originally posted by DB7@Jun 30 2005, 09:50 AM

    One misses too the inviting white pillared mansion of Selznick International, with its fluttering branches and shadows.

    I don't miss it at the start of Gone to Earth because the versions that show the Selznick mansion at the start are the ones that he hacked about. Despite being at all the discussions, when the film was finished Selznick decided he didn't like it & sued Powell & Pressburger. He lost, but he still had the right to edit the film for its American release. He chopped some scenes and added others. Sadly the ones he chopped meant that a lot of the story didn't make sense and the ones he added were mainly quite laughable. He seemed to want to describe things in great detail (a thing P&P never did, they assumed their audience was intelligent) and put labels on a lot of things.



    But the funniest one was in the final scene where Selznick decided it needed more close ups of Jennifer Jones, at the top of the mine shaft, with the fox in her arms. But they apparently couldn't get a trained fox back in America so poor old Jennifer is struggling with what is obviously a stuffed toy!



    David O. Selznick married well and was the producer of a few great films (but the producer isn't really responsible for their being great). But he didn't even have much faith in Gone With the Wind and sold his share early before the big profits started to roll in.



    Steve

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    The thread about the Gainsborough Lady set me to wondering just how many chaps have appeared tintinnabulating their tams-tams at the start of every J Arthur.

    Nowadays I tend to identify more with the percussionist in earlier films who sports a receding hairline, a double chin and a good inch or two of middle-age spread spilling over the waist of his loin-cloth than the perfectly-toned specimens who heralded the start of the movies of the 50s and 60s.

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    The globe which supported the RKO radio tower still is in situ on the corner of Gower and Melrose.Also the entrance into the studios,now Paramount ,on Gower is the original entrance into the RKO studios

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    Family legend has it that the first original Rank Gong man was World featherweight boxing champion of 1912 Joe Bowker of Manchester. Him being my wife's great great Grandfather. We are trying to find evidence of this, but it was apparently just a well known family fact amongst the now deceased wifes grandparents. Any idea how this can be confirmed or denied?

    Kenny Barnes

    Par Studios - Proper Job films

    Cornwall

  19. #19
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Parstudios
    Family legend has it that the first original Rank Gong man was World featherweight boxing champion of 1912 Joe Bowker of Manchester. Him being my wife's great great Grandfather. We are trying to find evidence of this, but it was apparently just a well known family fact amongst the now deceased wifes grandparents. Any idea how this can be confirmed or denied?

    Kenny Barnes

    Par Studios - Proper Job films

    Cornwall


    If he was the World featherweight boxing champion of 1912, how old would he have been in the 1930s & 1940s when Rank started as a production company? And as a featherweight, would he have had the muscles to look as if he was banging the gong? They were usually big fellas.



    The article mentioned above says that the first gong basher was Carl Dane, a 6ft 5in strongman. He did it from 1932 - 1948



    The Wikipedia page: Gongmen lists Carl Dane, "Bombardier" Billy Wells, Phil Nieman, and Ken Richmond as the gong bashers. So it could be just a family story but it would be interesting if any proof could be found that Joe did it as well



    Steve

  20. #20
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    When I was a kid I had a mate with the surname Wells, he swore along with his Grandmother whom he lived with that they were related.

    Does anyone know if he had any relatives in Wales?



    How many others banged the gong besides BBW?



    Cheers



    Caine

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