Rank, J. Arthur (Lord)

views updated Jun 11 2018

RANK, J. Arthur (Lord)

Producer. Nationality: British. Born: Joseph Arthur Rank in Hull, Yorkshire, 22 December 1888. Family: Married Laura Ellan Marshall; two daughters. Career: Mill apprentice; inherited father's flour milling fortune but made a loss on the business; Methodist Sunday School teacher; 1930s—formed the Religious Film Society as a means to promote his beliefs; owned Pinewood, Islington, and Denham Studios; 1941—chairman of the board, Gaumont British and Odeon cinema chains; 1945—owned 60% of the British film industry; expanded into Hollywood; 1950s—production slowed down; 1962—retired. Award: Peerage, 1957. Died: In 1972.

Films as Executive Producer:


A Night in Montmartre (Hiscott)


Jack's the Boy (Forde); Love on Wheels (Saville); Man of Aran (Flaherty)


Aunt Sally (Whelan); Channel Crossing (Rosmer); The Fire Raisers (Powell); It's a Boy (Whelan); Just Smith (Walls); The Lucky Number (Asquith); Red Ensign (Powell); Turkey Time (Walls)


The Camels Are Coming (Whelan); Chu Chin Chow (Forde); Cup of Kindness (Walls); Dirty Work (Walls); Evensong (Saville); Jack Ahoy (Forde); Lady in Danger (Walls); Little Friend (Viertel); My Old Dutch (Hill); Oh Daddy! (Cutts and Melford); Princess Charming (Elvey); Road House (Elvey); Things Are Looking Up (de Courville); Wild Boy (de Courville)


Boys Will Be Boys (Beaudine); Bulldog Jack (Forde); Car of Dreams (Cutts and Melford); The Clairvoyant (Elvey); Fighting Stock (Walls); Fly Away Peter (Saunders); Foreign Affairs (Walls); The Guv'nor (Rosmel); Heat Wave (Elvey); The Iron Duke (Saville); Me and Marlborough (Saville); Pot Luck (Walls); R.A.F. (Betts); Stormy Weather (Walls); The Turn of the Tide (Walker)


East Meets West (Mason); Everybody Dance (Reisner); Everything Is Thunder (Rosmer); It's Love Again (Saville); King of the Damned (Forde); The Man Who Changed His Mind (Stevenson); Seven Sinners (de Courville); Where There's a Will (Beaudine)


Alf's Button Afloat (Varnel); Non-Stop New York (Stevenson); O.H.M.S. (Born for Glory; You're in the Army Now) (Walsh); Oh, Mr. Porter! (Varnel)


Bank Holiday (Reed); Convict 99 (Varnel); Crackerjack (de Courville); Hey! Hey! U.S.A. (King Kelly of the U.S.A.) (Varnel); Love in Waiting (Pierce); Penny and the Pownall Case (Hand); A Piece of Cake (Irwin)


The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (Dickinson); Climbing High (Reed); The Frozen Limits (Varnel); Neutral Port (Varnel); Band Waggon (Varnel)


Freedom Radio (Voice in the Night) (Asquith); Gasbags (Varnel)


Cottage to Let (Asquith); The Ghost Train (Forde); I Thank You (Varnel); Hi, Gang! (Varnel)


Back Room Boy (Mason); The Day Will Dawn (The Avengers) (French); The Great Mr. Handel (Walker); In Which We Serve (Coward and Lean); King Arthur Was a Gentleman (Varnel); Secret Mission (French); Unpublished Story (French)


The Demi-Paradise (Adventure for Two) (Asquith); The Flemish Farm (Dell); The Gentle Sex (Howard); It's That Man Again (Forde); The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Powell and Pressburger); The Man in Grey (Arliss); Millions Like Us (Launder and Gilliat); Miss London Ltd. (Guest); The Silver Fleet (Sewell and Wellesley); They Met in the Dark (Lamac); We Dive at Dawn (Asquith)


Bees in Paradise (Guest); A Canterbury Tale (Powell and Pressburger); Don't Take It to Heart (Dell); English without Tears (French); Fanny By Gaslight (Man of Evil) (Asquith); Give Us the Moon (Guest); Love Story (A Lady Surrenders) (Arliss); Madonna of the Seven Moons (Crabtree); Mr. Emmanuel (French); Tawny Pipit (Miles); Time Flies (Forde); 2,000 Women (Launder); The Way Ahead (Reed)


Brief Encounter (Lean); Henry V (Olivier); I Know Where I'm Going (Powell and Pressburger); I'll Be Your Sweetheart (Guest); A Place of One's Own (Knowles); The Rake's Progress (The Notorious Gentleman) (Gilliat); The Seventh Veil (Bennett); They Knew Mr. Knight (Walker); They Were Sisters (Crabtree); Waterloo Road (Gilliat); The Way to the Stars (Asquith)


Beware of Pity (Elvey); Caravan (Crabtree); Carnival (Haynes); Dear Murderer (Crabtree); Great Expectations (Lean); Green for Danger (Gilliat); I See a Dark Stranger (The Adventuress) (Launder); London Town (My Heart Goes Crazy) (Ruggles); A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway to Heaven) (Powell and Pressburger); Men of Two Worlds (Kissenga, Man of Africa) (Dickinson); The Overlanders (Watt); School for Secrets (The Secret Flight) (Ustinov); Theirs Is the Glory (Hurst—doc); The Way We Live (Craigie—doc); The Wicked Lady (Arliss); Caesar and Cleopatra (Pascal)


Black Narcissus (Powell and Pressburger); The Brothers (MacDonald); Bush Christmas (Smart); Captain Boycott (Launder); The Captive Heart (Dearden); Easy Money (Knowles); End of the River (Twist); Fame Is the Spur (Boulting); Frieda (Dearden); Holiday Camp (Annakin); Hungry Hill (Hurst); Johnny Frenchman (Frend); The Magic Bow (Knowles); The Mark of Cain (Hurst); The Master of Bankdam (Forde); Odd Man Out (Reed); Root ofAll Evil (Williams); So Well Remembered (Dmytryk); Take My Life (Neame); This Happy Breed (Lean); Uncle Silas (Frank); The Upturned Glass (Huntington); Vice Versa (Ustinov); When the Bough Breaks (Huntington); The Woman in the Hall (Lee)


Against the Wind (Crichton); The Bad Lord Byron (MacDonald); Blanche Fury (Allegret); Blind Goddess (French); Broken Journey (Annakin); Calendar (Crabtree); Corridor of Mirrors (Young); Daybreak (Bennett); Diamond City (MacDonald); Double Pursuit; Dulcimer Street (London Belongs to Me) (Gilliat); Esther Waters (Dalrymple); Good-Time Girl (MacDonald); Hamlet (Olivier); Helter Skelter (Thomas); Here Come the Huggetts (Annakin); High Pavement ; It Always Rains on Sunday (Hamer); It's Hard to Be Good (Dell); Jassy (Knowles); The Lamp Still Burns (Elvey); Miranda (Annakin); Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill (Huntington); My Brother's Keeper (Roome); Nicholas Nickelby (Cavalcanti); The October Man (Baker); Oliver Twist (Lean); Once a Jolly Swagman (Lee); Once upon a Dream (Thomas); One Night with You (Young); The PassionateFriends (One Woman's Story) (Lean); Portrait from Life (The Girl in the Painting) (Fisher); Quartet (Annakin, Crabtree, French, and Smart); The Red Shoes (Powell and Pressburger); Saraband for Dead Lovers (Saraband) (Dearden and Relph); Scott of the Antarctic (Frend); The Smugglers (The Man Within) (Knowles); Snowbound (MacDonald); Third Time Lucky (Parry); Trottie True (The Gay Lady) (Hurst); Trouble in the Air (Saunders); The Weaker Sex (Baker); The White Unicorn (Knowles); Woman Hater (Young)


Adam and Evalyn (French); All over the Town (Twist); The Blue Lagoon (Launder); A Boy, a Girl and a Bike (Smart); Boys in Brown (Tully); Cardboard Cavalier (Forde); The Chiltern Hundreds (The Amazing Mr. Beecham) (Carstairs); Christopher Columbus (MacDonald); Dear Mr. Prohack (Freeland); Don't Ever Leave Me (Crabtree); Eureka Stockade (Watt); Floodtide (Wilson); Fools Rush In (Carstairs); The History of Mr. Polly (Pelissier); The Huggetts Abroad (Annakin); It's Not Cricket (Roome); The Lost People (Knowles); Madeleine (The Strange Case of Madeleine) (Lean); Madness of the Heart (Bennett); Marry Me (Fisher); Morning Departure (Operation Disaster)(Baker); The Perfect Woman (Knowles); Poet's Pub (Wilson); The Reluctant Widow (Knowles); The Rocking-Horse Winner (Pelissier); Sleeping Car to Trieste (Carstairs); The Spider and the Fly (Hamer); Sto-Press Girl (Barry); Traveler's Joy (Thomas); Vote for Huggett (Annakin); Warning to Wantons (Wilson)


The Astonished Heart (Fisher and Darnborough); The Dark Man (Dell); The Golden Salamander (Neame); Highly Dangerous (Baker); Prelude to Fame (McDonnell); So Long at the Fair (Fisher and Darnborough); They Were Not Divided (Young); Trio (Annakin and French)


Appointment with Venus (Island Rescue) (Thomas); The Browning Version (Asquith); Encore (Jackson, Pelissier, and French); High Treason (Boulting); Night without Stars (Pelissier); Secret People (Dickinson)


Curtain Up (Smart); Hunted (The Stranger in Between) (Crichton); The Importance of Being Earnest (Asquith); It Started in Paradise (Bennett); The Long Memory (Hamer); Made in Heaven (Carstairs); Meet Me Tonight (Tonight at 8.30) (Pelissier); The Penny Princess (Guest); Planter's Wife (Outpost in Malaya) (Annakin); Something Money Can't Buy (Jackson); Top of the Form (Carstairs); Venetian Bird (The Assassin) (Thomas)


Always a Bride (Smart); The Desperate Moment (Bennett); Genevieve (Cornelius); Gentlemen, the Queen ; John Wesley (Walker); The Kidnappers (The Little Kidnappers) (Leacock); Lady Godiva Rides Again (Launder); The Malta Story (Hurst); The Net (Project M. 7) (Asquith); Never Let Me Go (Daves); A Personal Affair (Pelissier); A Queen Is Crowned (doc); Street Corner (Both Sides of the Law) (Box); Trouble in Store (Carstairs); Turn the Key Softly (Lee); You Know What Sailors Are (Annakin)


The Beachcomber (Box); Doctor in the House (Thomas); Fast and Loose (Parry); Forbidden Cargo (French); Mad about Men (Thomas); The Million Pound Note (Man with a Million) (Neame); One Good Turn (Carstairs); The Purple Plain (Parrish); The Queen's Royal Tour (Hugham—doc); Romeo and Juliet (Castellani); The Seekers (Land of Fury) (Annakin); The Teckman Mystery (Toye); To Paris with Love (Hamer); Up to His Neck (Carstairs); The Young Lovers (Chance Meeting) (Asquith)


All for Mary (Toye); An Alligator Named Daisy (Lee Thompson); As Long as They're Happy (Lee Thompson); Doctor at Sea (Thomas); Jumping for Joy (Carstairs); Lost (Green); Man of the Moment (Carstairs); One Way Out (Searle); Passage Home (Baker); Simba (Hurst); Simon and Laura (Box); Who Done It? (Relph and Dearden); A Woman for Joe (O'Ferrall)


The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee) (Powell and Pressburger); Black Tent (Hurst); Breakaway (Cass); Eyewitness (Peril in the Night) (Box); The Feminine Touch (Jackson); House of Secrets (Triple Deception) (Green); Jacqueline (Baker); Long Arm (Frend); Reach for the Sky (Gilbert); The Secret Place (Donner); The Spanish Gardener (Leacock); Tiger in the Smoke (Baker); True as a Turtle (Plain Sailing) (Toye); Up in the World (Carstairs)


Across the Bridge (Annakin); Above Us the Waves (Thomas); Campbell's Kingdom (Thomas); Checkpoint (Thomas); Dangerous Exile (Hurst); Doctor at Large (Thomas); Hell Drivers (Endfield); High Tide at Noon (Leacock); Ill Met By Moonlight (Night Ambush) (Powell and Pressburger); It Happened in Rome (Pietrangeli); Just My Luck (Carstairs); Miracle in Soho (Amyes); The Naked Truth (Zampi); The One That Got Away (Baker); Passionate Summer (Brabant); Robbery Under Arms (Lee); Seven Thunders (Fregonese); Tears for Simon (Green); A Town Like Alice (The Rape of Malaya) (Lee); Value for Money (Annakin); Windom's Way (Neame)


Bachelor of Hearts (Rilla); Big Money (Carstairs); Carve Her Name with Pride (The Last Dawn) (Gilbert); Floods of Fear (Crichton); The Gypsy and the Gentleman (Losey); Heart of a Child (Donner); Innocent Sinners (Leacock); The Long Knife (Tully); Man with a Gun (Tully); A Night to Remember (Baker); Nor Moon By Night (Elephant Gun) (Annakin); Rockets Galore (Mad Little Island) (Relph); Rooney (Pollock); Sea of Sand (Green); A Tale of Two Cities (Thomas); Violent Playground (Dearden); The Wind Cannot Read (Thomas)


The Captain's Table (Lee); Ferry to Hong Kong (Gilbert); Follow a Star (Asher); Heart of a Man (Wilcox); Hidden Homicide (Young); Northwest Frontier (Flame over India) (Lee Thompson); Operation Amsterdam (McCarthy); Sapphire (Dearden); Sea Fury (Endfield); The Square Peg (Carstairs); The Thirty-Nine Steps (Thomas); Tiger Bay (Lee Thompson); Too Many Crooks (Zampi); Upstairs and Downstairs (Thomas); Whirlpool (Allen)


Bulldog Breed (Asher); Conspiracy of Hearts (Thomas); Doctor in Love (Thomas); League of Gentlemen (Dearden); Let's Get Married (Scott); Make Mine Mink (Asher); Man in the Moon (Dearden); The Royal Ballet (Czinner)


Flame in the Streets (Baker); In the Doghouse (Conyers); No Love for Johnnie (Thomas); No, My Darling Daughter (Thomas); The Singer Not the Song (Baker); Very Important Person (A Coming-Out Party) (Annakin); Victim (Dearden); Whistle Down the Wind (Forbes)


All Night Long (Dearden); Life for Ruth (Condemned to Life) (Dearden); On the Beat (Asher); A Pair of Briefs (Thomas); Tiara Tahiti (Kotcheff); Waltz of the Toreadors (Guillermin); The Wild and the Willing (Young and Willing) (Thomas)


On RANK: books—

Wood, Alan, Mr. Rank, London, 1952.

Balcon, Michael, A Lifetime in Films, 1969.

Limbacher, James, The Influence of J. Arthur Rank on the History of the British Film, 1971 + filmo.

Macnab, G. C., J. Arthur Rank and the British Film Industry, London, 1993.

On RANK: articles—

Sight and Sound (London), October-December 1952.

Today's Cinema, no. 9865, 15 December 1970.

Obituary in Ecran, no. 5, May 1972.

Cinema and TV Today, 8 April 1982.

Sight and Sound (London), vol. 51, no. 4, Autumn 1982.

Economist, 1 May 1993.

Sight and Sound (London), June 1993.

Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1994.

Films in Review (New York), May-June 1996.

* * *

Though the Rank Organisation all but dominated British film production between the early 1940s and the late 1960s, its founder, J. Arthur Rank, born into the Yorkshire flour-milling business, was nearly 40 before his proprietorship of the Methodist Times led, indirectly, to film. Dissatisfied with existing films for church purposes, he sponsored his own, through producer John Corfield, and in 1933 moved into mainstream cinema, establishing British National with another idealistic millionaire, Lady Yule. Together they produced The Turn of the Tide, a realistic yarn of a Yorkshire fishing family. It won third prize at the Venice Film Festival, only to be shunned by British distributors. Legend long had it that this rejection sparked his determination to rescue the film business from vulgar minds. In 1937 Rank acquired the brand-new Pinewood studios and C. M. Woolf's General Film Distributors (with its familiar gong trademark), and in 1939 bought into Oscar Deutch's Odeon cinema circuit (smallest, newest, but most glamorous of the three chains dominating the market), thus becoming a "vertically integrated combine." In 1940 he acquired Gaumont-British cinemas, with their 89 subsidiary companies, and by 1943 he controlled about two-thirds of the British movie business, including newsreels, laboratories, and optical technology. Though the Rank "Empire" was little larger than one of the Hollywood Big Five, he enjoyed the strategic advantage of sharing a duopoly (with Associated British Cinemas) over British exhibition. In 1945 his principal production companies were Two Cities (under Del Giudice), Gainsborough (under the Ostrers and Ted Black), and Independent Producers, Rank's own set-up, which offered unprecedented artistic freedom to The Archers (Powell and Pressburger), Cineguild (Lean, Neame, and Havelock-Allan), Individual (Launder and Gilliat), Wessex (Ian Dalrymple), and the notoriously extravagant Gabriel Pascl; Ealing (Balcon) was, loosely, associated. Rank's high-minded loss-makers ranged from This Modern Age, an English counter to Time-Life's March of Time, to special children's films, in order, in his words, "to break Hollywood's grip on the child's mind." His drive to get good British films into the jealously guarded American mass market, often through Eagle-Lion, GFD's international complement, was spearheaded by expensive spectaculars, notably Olivier's Henry V, Pascal's Caesar and Cleopatra, and Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death, while less lavish efforts, like Brief Encounter, and the Ealing comedies, did much to develop the American arthouse audience, disdained by Hollywood. However, Rank's high-risk internationalism, including the establishment of 200 Odeon cinemas in Canada, ran into enormous problems. His "combine" was an untidy aggregation of units; the deaths of Woolf and Deutsch deprived him of guiding advice from veteran showmen, and Pascal and others produced some costly and spectacular flops. During 1947–48 the Labour government's erratic misjudgments brought the Rank giant to its knees. Legislation intended to stem the postwar dollar drain goaded Hollywood to withhold new product; so Rank, having to feed over 600 cinemas, hastily expanded production. Meanwhile, the government abruptly reversed its policy, exposing this hastily run-up product to stockpiled Hollywood competition, and a new Quota Act brought to Rank an undeserved ill will from Hollywood. Only "King Rank" could have recouped the enormous losses; they intensified the rigorous rationalisation, under John Davis' tough accountant's mind, driving most of Rank's prestigious filmmakers to his rival, Korda. Davis became chair on Rank's retirement, with the organisation diversified into other fields, notably, Rank-Xerox. By 1980 film production was minimal, though exhibition, distribution, and Southern Television, are still prominent.

Rank's predominance was inevitably controversial, especially given the convulsions and changes of 1946–48. His combination of a Christian sense of mission, financial acumen, and the low necklines in films like Gainsborough's The Wicked Lady, attracted many scathing comments from the critics, while socialists cast him as the demon semimonopolist. But the power of his "nonconformist conscience" was well attested, by his financial probity (and his continuing devotion to teaching home-town Sunday School classes). Alan Wood's account plausibly suggests that Rank, far from setting out to monopolise British film, felt drawn, by a chain of opportunities (the 1936–37 production crisis, wartime upheavals, existing corporate interlocks, and industry's aversion to Hollywood grabbing the last British bulwark, exhibition) to stabilise, save, and assert a key sector of national and moral culture. Writers often contrast Rank, the provincial, religious, puritan, businessman, with Korda the cosmopolitan, "cavalier," and artwise impresario. Rank's own tastes are suggested by various Norman Walker films; the religious and moral tendencies discernible in Rank's features of the 1950s may well owe something to his sense of mission. The pros and cons and ifs and buts of industry history are interminably debatable, but history may well regard him with a warmth which will startle his detractors.

—Raymond Durgnat

Rank, J. (Joseph) Arthur

views updated May 21 2018

Rank, J. (Joseph) Arthur (1888–1972) English industrialist and film magnate, chairman of many film companies. Rank promoted the British film industry at a time when Hollywood and US film companies had a virtual monopoly.