The successes of the wartime cinema suggested that the cinema of Great Britain had reached a new level of maturity and was poised to flourish and possibly escape from the shadow of Hollywood. There were some notable successes, including two films adapted from Graham Greene (1904-1991) novellas. One, Brighton Rock (John Boulting, 1947), starred a young Richard Attenborough (b. 1923) as Pinky Brown, the teenaged leader of a gang of Brighton thugs. The second, The Third Man (1949), directed by Carol Reed (1906-1976), was a thriller set in divided postwar Vienna and starred Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles; some have claimed it as the greatest British film of all time. Yet while the immediate postwar years held a great deal of promise, the cinema of that era did not necessarily live up to the expectations for it. By the 1950s the British market was effectively controlled by two firms, Rank and Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC). Additionally, cinema attendance declined from the peak of the war years. As indicated by Rank's increased intervention in Gainsborough, consolidation meant that costs could be reined in, so that while money was still lavished on quality films being made by bigger-name directors, the bulk of the company's output was material that would fill out programs in Rank-owned theaters. Rank also hoped to make greater inroads into the American market and saw the bigger-budgeted epics as a means of achieving this. A number of Britain's key directors in effect became independent contractors to Rank, and producing such films as Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes and David Lean's (1908-1991) Brief Encounter along with his subsequent success, Great Expectations (1946).
Most key personnel left Gainsborough after Rank began his interference in 1946. Rank named Sydney Box the new head of Gainsborough, hoping that Box could continue the studio's commercially successful tradition of melodrama. Box, however, was more interested in social realism, and the period of Box's leadership, in which he was hampered by a myriad of organizational problems, saw a dramatic decline in the studio's box-office appeal until Rank closed Gainsborough in 1950. One key personnel move made by Box during his short tenure was the appointment of his sister, Betty Box (1915-1999), to head of production at Gainsborough's Islington studio. While she struggled under difficult conditions, Box established herself as a significant producer, and once Gainsborough closed, she continued to work for Rank at Pinewood Studios. Her biggest success was with Doctor in the House (1954), the first film in a long-running series. Doctor in the House starred Dirk Bogarde (19211999), whose success in the title role helped establish him as the ''Idol of the Odeons.'' Bogarde dominated the British box office and popularity polls through much of the 1950s, reprising his Doctor role in three sequels as well as starring in another Betty Box-produced film, A Tale of Two Cities (1958), an adaptation of Dickens's novel. Bogarde's later career was marked by more serious roles, beginning with Victim (1961), the first British film to deal explicitly with homosexuality, and including Joseph Losey's (1909-1984) The Servant (1963) and Accident (1967).
Bogarde's popularity in the 1950s was tied to his involvement in genre films, which had become a commercial staple of the British market. Ealing Studios under Michael Balcon had emerged from the war with a
Was this article helpful?