Conclusion

The British film industry has produced a rich and varied corpus of films throughout the twentieth century. But the ‘last machine’ was not always as efficient as many would have liked, its problems being as notorious as its cinematic milestones. In conclusion, I would like to isolate five particular themes which have had a profound influence on British cinema, explaining some of its peculiarities, the specifics of a cinema which can be described as British. These themes are: Hollywood’s economic and aesthetic prominence; Britain’s weak production base; the stylistic and thematic variety of British cinema; the importance of class and gender; and, finally, film culture.

The extent of American influence has been mentioned many times in this book and it is more or less impossible to think of British cinema without reference to its relationship with Hollywood. At different times this has varied from being mutually supportive to antagonistic, with the government taking a consistently ambivalent attitude towards the extent to which Anglo-American collaboration is necessary for the encouragement of the British industry. As we have seen from Chapter 1, economic domination was established from an early stage, the world marvelling at how well the vertically integrated structure of the American film industry minimised the risks involved in film production. Britain’s industry consolidated in the late 1920s, 15 years or so behind Hollywood, a timelag which had significant consequences. The impact on production was profound. The exhibition sector was capitalised to a far higher degree than production, which lurched from boom to crisis without a stable infrastructure. This affected budgets, market projection, stars and even popularity. The charge that British films were shoddy and unprofessional provides ample evidence of prevailing standards of quality being identified primarily with Hollywood. It was considered to be an important goal for a production company to own cinemas, as Rank’s example demonstrates, but even then it was extremely difficult to finance British films when for most of the century the market was dominated by American films. Nevertheless, Rank and independent producers succeeded in gaining a small foothold which has been more secure in some

-197-

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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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