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John Davis:The Man Who Ruined the British Film Industry

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  • #16
    Originally posted by orpheum View Post
    I quote from J Arthur Rank and The British Film Industry by Geoffrey Mcnab:
    the tradegy is that,except in all too brief spells,,Rank has shown itself incapable of reinvesting those Xerox millions with much acumen or of managing its own cinema,leisure and industrial operations with much skill.For Ranks decline John Davis must take the blame.
    Notorious for the way he bossed around Ranks contract film stars.
    cold blooded manner in which he axed executives.
    So there you have it.
    Remember ranks falling ouit with Fox over CinemaScope which led to Fox pulling their films from Rank and giving them to Granada.
    On a personal note i remember being offered a job in Ranks legal department but turning it done as the pay was too low and the prospects remote.Shortly after Rank terminated their film productions.
    I have been to the National Archives many times in the past.There are a number of files on Rank.It is quite clear that Davis didnt have a clue as to how to deal with the decline in attendances other than axing.
    I am not saying that other studios had any great ideas but at least some of them gave it a go.Fox with widescreen and stereo sound,Paramount with Vistavision,Warners with branching out into tv.
    Davis may have saved Rank in the early fifties but for what?
    So, please tell me which other British cinema chain and/or studio came out of the fifties and sixties without closures and cutbacks. As far as Fox and Rank falling out over CinemaScope, that cost Fox a fortune in lost receipts as their cobbled together "fourth" circuit made up of Essoldos, Granadas and independents had nothing like the earning power of an Odeon (or even Gaumont) release. Fox came back to Rank in 1958 when the novelty of CinemaScope had worn off and they needed Rank's cinemas for roadshows of South Pacific. As for having no clue as to how to deal with declining attendances, what on earth have a couple of screen formats got to do with running a British studio and cinema chain. In fact Rank adopted VistaVision for many of it's productions and was one of the backers of the Southern Television ITV franchise.
    Nobody is trying to pretend that Davis was a nice guy, his fairly ruthless sacking of Kenneth More and his treatment of his wife, Dinah Sheridan, speak for themselves. But he was an effective businessman whose actions kept Rank in the film business for longer than any of their rivals.

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    • #17
      He was an effective businessman only because he closed studios,and cinemas and film production and virtually took Rank out of meaningful involvement in the film industry and became a bingo chain and photocopier company.
      After the early sixties they made precious few films,eventually just distributing second rate American films.
      Split screen cinemas first came into being in the US in the sixties but only years later in the seventies were tried out in the UK.
      Rank had all the exhibition cards stacked in their favour,remember the infamous barring clauses.yet they could not make a go of it.
      Davis called managers to dinners at the Dorchester to try and work out what to do as he had no ideas of his own.
      At least other studios tried to find ways of attracting people.Rank didnt seem to be bothered.As far as he was concerned if they closed a cinema and sold it to a supermarket chain that would look gtood on the balance sheet.
      The arguement is not that he was a successful businessman but that he was bad news for the film industry and it is little surprise that during his reign the industry hit an all time low.Whatever way you want to consider it he was agreat contributor to that situation.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Steve Crook View Post
        But saved it at what cost?

        Steve
        You tell me. The owners of the Rank Organisation, i.e. the shareholders, would have been very pleased, as would legions of employees

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        • #19
          Originally posted by orpheum View Post
          He was an effective businessman only because he closed studios,and cinemas and film production and virtually took Rank out of meaningful involvement in the film industry and became a bingo chain and photocopier company.
          After the early sixties they made precious few films,eventually just distributing second rate American films.
          Split screen cinemas first came into being in the US in the sixties but only years later in the seventies were tried out in the UK.
          Rank had all the exhibition cards stacked in their favour,remember the infamous barring clauses.yet they could not make a go of it.
          Davis called managers to dinners at the Dorchester to try and work out what to do as he had no ideas of his own.
          At least other studios tried to find ways of attracting people.Rank didnt seem to be bothered.As far as he was concerned if they closed a cinema and sold it to a supermarket chain that would look gtood on the balance sheet.
          The arguement is not that he was a successful businessman but that he was bad news for the film industry and it is little surprise that during his reign the industry hit an all time low.Whatever way you want to consider it he was agreat contributor to that situation.
          He was an effective businessman because he balanced the books, enhanced shareholder value and made a profit. Now, in order to achieve that he needed to cut the overheads which involved getting rid of unprofitable assets and switching production into more popular (and perhaps less aesthetically pleasing) features. That kept the company going for three decades!

          There is not a chief exec in the world has all the answers and getting your management team together for a brainstorming session seems like common sense, and good business practice, to me

          The collapse of the British film industry in the 1970s was nothing to do with Davis and, to his credit as a chief exec, he had already insulated the company from that but minising investment in film production and diversifying the portfolio.

          Again, if I was a shareholder in Rank in the early fifties, I would be very happy with all of the above. If I was Michael Powell or Roy Boulting or David Lean, I might have the hump.

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          • #20
            He wasnt an effective businessman because he ruled by fear and bullying.He was surrounded by yes men and took the one vertically integrated film production company out of the business.A good businessman would have used the assets that he had to their best advantage which he singularly did not.Not one person in that documentary had a good word to say to him.The fact that Rank had no films in production in 1977 is solely a testament to him.
            If this iste were called Britphotocopier you might have a point.I received a certificate so that i could operate a Xerox photocopier.Like Davis it always went wrong.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by orpheum View Post
              He wasnt an effective businessman because he ruled by fear and bullying.He was surrounded by yes men and took the one vertically integrated film production company out of the business.A good businessman would have used the assets that he had to their best advantage which he singularly did not.Not one person in that documentary had a good word to say to him.The fact that Rank had no films in production in 1977 is solely a testament to him.
              If this iste were called Britphotocopier you might have a point.I received a certificate so that i could operate a Xerox photocopier.Like Davis it always went wrong.
              I really am sorry Orpheum, but you are making yourself sound like an idiot.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by orpheum View Post
                He wasnt an effective businessman because he ruled by fear and bullying.He was surrounded by yes men and took the one vertically integrated film production company out of the business.A good businessman would have used the assets that he had to their best advantage which he singularly did not.Not one person in that documentary had a good word to say to him.The fact that Rank had no films in production in 1977 is solely a testament to him.
                If this iste were called Britphotocopier you might have a point.I received a certificate so that i could operate a Xerox photocopier.Like Davis it always went wrong.
                You can't take the documentary as evidence of anything other than an aesthetic perspective from a handful of movie makers who were disadvantaged by his policy. Where were the interviews with the other members of the board, or the heads of divisions? The corporate guys? Who exactly were these 'yes' men that you speak of? Name one.

                He certainly did use the assets, he got rid of the excess fat and slimmed down the cost base. He kept Pienewood and made it profitable. His successors in all the other studios Rank had owned struggled to keep out of the red. He dumped all the lost causes that J Arthur squandered money on and that, given the perilous position in1952, was exactly the right thing to do. He kept Rank making movies for over two and a half decades.

                By 1977 hardly any film company was making movies in the UK. That proves nothing.. What happened to Hammer, British Lion or any of the other companies that were active in the 1960s? It was a bad year for British films. Rank, as a business, on the other hand, were making vast profits of by 1977 and that was solely a testament to him. He was answerable at all times to his shareholders, not film buffs.

                To say he ruined the film industry is headline grabbing nonsense.

                Your definition of an effective businessman seems to be confused with being a decent person. Though Betty Box seems to have been quite comfortable with him, and I'd guess Peter Rodgers was too. Davis probably wasn't nice but I'll say it again, he rescued Rank from the brink and kept them going for 30 years, during very difficult times for British industry in general. He was undoubtedly a effective business man. I'll repeat my point, if I had shares in Rank in 1952" I would be very, very pleased at the way the corporation was run by 1977.

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                • #23
                  I strongly object to your post Odeonman,if you cant have a rational discussion without resorting to abuse then you are clearly not worth effort to respond to.You come across as arrogant.End of conversation.

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                  • #24
                    Paxton Man i suggest that you read the book referred to in my earlier post which contains descriptions of Davis from people who were not directly associated with him.You cannot compare Rank to hammer and British Lion(in which i was a shareholder) as they were not vertically integrated,had no cinemas,labs etc.
                    You chose to ignore the statement of Lewis Gilbert,where Davis wanted to interfere in the making of Reach For The Sky,and Gilberts refusal reduced the messenger to tears.
                    Since you have your views and i have mine,lets call it quits.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by orpheum View Post
                      I strongly object to your post Odeonman,if you cant have a rational discussion without resorting to abuse then you are clearly not worth effort to respond to.You come across as arrogant.End of conversation.
                      Your posts are full of hate for someone you never knew and full of inaccurate comments, in my opinion you are making yourself look idiotic. That is not abuse.

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