Chapter 2

Studios, directors and genres

British genres are more than an abstract system of formulas, conventions, and codes that are universally applicable. National identity, social history, and ideology play a central role in their formation.

(Landy, 1991:11)

British cinema has been characterised as a curious mix of studios, directors and genres, emphasis being frequently placed on key directors who are held responsible for ‘great British films’ and ‘high spots in film history’, including Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945), Henry V (Laurence Olivier, 1945), The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) and Room At the Top (Jack Clayton, 1959). Their efforts have been praised in auteurist discourse for operating not only against the constraints of studio film-making but also because of the overall economic and cultural oppression by Hollywood. Although directors are important, it is essential however to see their work as part of the larger operation of studios and genres. As the above quotation from Landy shows, British cinema has a strong generic base which has been influenced by a combination of creative abilities, film industry economics and British society.

Until relatively recently, attention has not focused on British cinema in terms of genres, and literature on studios has tended to concentrate on the historical development of Denham, Pinewood, Elstree and Shepperton without placing studio structures within a wider context of creative enterprise. The study of Hollywood cinema has suggested further areas of investigation concerning generic analysis, studio models of film-making and the role of directors (and other creative personnel) within those structures. These themes suggest useful comparative models for analysing British cinema, for example by introducing notions of standardisation, ‘repetition’ and ‘difference’ in genre studies; the importance of ‘inter-textual relay’ in promoting generic readings of films and the idea of the ‘hybrid’ film. 1 They also raise questions about the economic, stylistic and ideological impact of competitive film-making. While detailed research of this nature remains to be done, I want to suggest how these questions are relevant for the study

-28-

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British National Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Plates ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction: British National Cinema 1
  • Chapter 1 - He Fiscal Politics of Film 4
  • Chapter 2 - Studios, Directors and Genres 28
  • Chapter 3 - Genres from Austerity to Affluence 61
  • Chapter 4 - Genres in Transition, 1970s-90s 92
  • Chapter 5 - Acting and Stars 114
  • Chapter 6 - Borderlines I: Modernism and British Cinema 147
  • Chapter 7 - Borderlines Ii: Counter-Cinema and Independence 169
  • Conclusion 197
  • Notes 201
  • Bibliography 210
  • Subject Index 217
  • Name Index 219
  • Index of Films and Television Programmes 227
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