September 20, 2014

Studios

Studio Photograph
Photo courtesy of Alan Gowdy.

With war raging, Welwyn struggled through the war years to continue film production. Jack Hawkins appeared with Basil Radford in The Flying Squad (1940), based on a novel by Edgar Wallace; and in the same year, Lilli Palmer starred with Leslie Banks in the thriller The Door with Seven Locks (1940). In 1941, ABPC made a comedy, Spring Meeting (1941), with an interesting cast list which included Nova Pilbeam, Basil Sydney, Enid Stamp-Taylor, Michael Wilding and Margaret Rutherford. This was followed by a wartime story, Tower of Terror (1941), with Michael Rennie and Wilfrid Lawson. Leslie Arliss directed James Mason in the thriller The Night Has Eyes (1942), and in the following year, Gordon Harker and Jean Kent appeared in Warn That Man (1943). Towards the end of the war, Herbert Wilcox produced and directed his wife, Anna Nagle in I Live in Grosvenor Square (1945), which also starred Rex Harrison; and in 1946, she returned to the studio to make Piccadilly Incident (1946) with Michael Wilding and A.E. Matthews.

By the close of the 1940s a spate of interesting and varied features were shot at the studios. Brighton Rack (1947), based on the novel by Graham Greene and starring Richard Attenborough, was produced by Roy Boulting and directed by his brother John Boulting. Edith Evans and Anton Walbrook starred in the atmospheric chiller The Queen of Spades (1949), which was directed by Thorold Dickinson, and in the same year, Peter Ustinov took the role of Private Angelo (1949), co-starring with James Robertson Justice in a film directed by Michael Anderson and Ustinov himself. The two last films made at the studios in the 1940s were No Place for Jennifer (1950), a drama concerning a t twelve-year-old girl who runs away from home on the divorce of her parents, with Leo Genn, Rosamund John and Janette Scott as Jennifer; and Last Holiday (1950), with a screenplay by J. B. Priestley and starring Alec Guinness.

Industry speculation that the Associated British Picture Corporation might sell Welwyn in order to concentrate all production at their Elstree Studios proved well founded. The final productions made at Welwyn in 1950 were J Lee Thompsonís Murder Without Crime (1950), the John Paddy Carstairs comedy Talk of a Million (1951) and The Franchise Affair (1951), which starred husband-and-wife team Dulcie Gray and Michael Denison. ABPC sold the site shortly afterwards bringing to an end the three-stage studios that had produced over 70 films, and tobacco company Ardath took over the premises in late 1951. The premises were shortly after used as warehouses by DIY manufacturers Polycell. Supermarket giant Tesco cleared the site in 2007.

Source © British Film Studios by Patricia Warren.

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