Cat no. 1673

Film Studios In Hertfordshire

Running time10:16 Colour Sound 1981 Hertfordshire

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A history of film studios in Hertfordshire.



Documentary by Wilf Watters tracing the development and history of the film production studios that sprung up around Borehamwood and Elstree. Using a combination of contemporary and archival footage, Watters traces the history of studio production in England and the important role played by studios in the county of Hertfordshire.

Locations include Bushey Studios, with its silent stages built in 1912 by Hubert von Herkomer, and Gate Studios at Elstree, another silent studio built beside a railway line and now home to Harkness, a cinema screen manufacturer. The earliest fully-covered studio in Hertfordshire, built by the Neptune Film Company in 1913, is shown as the home of Associated Television and includes a set for a TV production of a Shakespeare play.

The nearby EMI Studios, built in 1927, were the largest studios in Britain at the time and played host to the Associated British Picture Corporation. Clips from Piccadilly (1929) starring Anna May Wong, and Alfred Hitchcock undertaking sound-tests with Anny Ondra in preparation for Blackmail (1929), Britain's first sound film, illustrate the historical importance of this studio. Still in use, it serves independent directors like Stanley Kubrick and Ken Russell and is home to productions like Hanover Street (1979) starring Harrison Ford and Lesley-Anne Down, from which behind-the-scenes footage is shown. Two years later, that same outdoor stage houses a large, enclosed silent stage built for the second Star Wars film.

Also shown are Herbert Wilcox's British and Dominion Studios which burnt down in 1936, and Amalgamated Studios, which housed many American-financed British productions but fell into disrepair when sold for redevelopment after the withdrawal of MGM in 1971. Extensive footage of the site in 1973 shows it being stripped of equipment, as well as the overgrown sets of London and Parisian streets, and those originally constructed for The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958).

Nearby are the New Elstree Studios, built in the boom days of TV serial production, but now - like many other studios - serving as a factory and storage space. The film concludes with a visit to the former British Instructional Film Studios near Welwyn Garden City, built in 1921 and used for many years by the Associated British Picture Corporation.

Background Information:

Film made by Wilf Watters, a notable amateur filmmaker who became known as the director of many films about steam engines and railway lines, many of which are widely available on DVD.

Featured People:

Alfred Hitchcock; Anna May Wong; Anny Ondra; Harrison Ford; Lesley Anne Down

Featured Organisations:

Harkness Screens Limited; Associated Television (ATV); EMI; Associate British Picture Corporation; British & Dominion Studios; Amalgamated Studios; British Instructional Film Studios; Polycell

Featured Buildings:

The Rock Studio; White Hall Films; Harkness Screens Ltd; British and Dominion; Pinewood Studios; Amalgamated Studios; Neptune Film Company; EMI; Polycell; British National Studio; Bushey Studios; Gate Studios; Elstree Studios; MGM Studios

Wilf Watters

Norman Ashton

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