Film making in Beaconsfield - Beaconsfield Film Studios
The Beaconsfield Film Studios were built in Station Road in 1921 by George Clark Productions. The original idea for these studios dates back to 1914, but was held up because of the First World War, the move from London being based on the desire to get away from the smog.
The Early Days of Silent Movies
‘Beauty and the Beast’ was the first film produced, with more productions following, but by 1924 the dumping of American films in the UK led to a temporary recession, forcing the government to pass legislation in 1927 to limit the screening of imported films to 22.5%. In 1929 the British Lion Company bought the studios, and Edgar Wallace, the thriller writer who lived in Bourne End, was made chairman. He was able to supervise the translation of his stories to the silent screen, and other films were also made at this time, including ‘Sally in our Alley’ in 1931, which brought fame to Gracie Fields.
The 1930s and the start of the “Talkies”
Edgar Wallace directed the first talkie, ‘The Squeaker’, in 1930 with a plethora of films following. Between 1929 and 1939 stars like John Gielgud, Paul Robeson, Margaret Lockwood and Hughie Green (as a boy actor) came to the studios, with many of the actors staying in inns in the Old Town, particularly the Saracen’s Head. George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy and AA Milne were other famous visitors to the studios, and not surprisingly the list of films made during this period was extyensive.
The Outbreak of War and the Post War Period
With the outbreak of the Second World War the studios were requisitioned for Rotax to make aircraft engine magnetos. The Crown Film unit hired the film studios in 1945, and 75 films a year were made for the Central Office of Information until 1951. With the winding up of this Company, Group 3 used the studios for 2 years under a scheme to foster new British talent. This coincided with the Board of Trade introducing the Eady Levy, an additional tax on box office takings, to be redistributed to British film makers as a mechanism to boost production by providing additional finance for the studios. In 1953 the studios were rented in turn by Beaconsfield Films Ltd who made ‘The Tommy Steele Story’ and then, with the growth of television, Screen Gems Inc. rented the space in 1957-8 for their ‘Ivanhoe’ TV series starring Roger Moore. Following this, Independent Artists occupied the studios until 1964 making amongst others ‘Tiger Bay’, ‘The Fast Lady’ and ‘Father Came Too’. The final film was ‘Press for Time’, a comedy starring Norman Wisdom and made by Titan Films and the studios became empty.
The empty studios were leased by North Thames Gas as premises for warehousing during the conversion of appliances from Town to North Sea Gas. Was this to be the end of film making in Beaconsfield?
Beaconsfield and District Historical Society “The History of Beaconsfield” Beaconsfield (2009)
Beaconsfield Historical Society Archive: O-NFTS/A/001-004; O-NFTS/D/001; 0-NFTS/E/001; O-NFTS/NC/007; 0-NFTS/R/001