British Cinema of the 1950s: A Celebration

By Ian MacKillop; Neil Sinyard | Go to book overview

Value for money: Baker and
Berman, and Tempean Films

BRIAN MCFARLANE

YOU DON' T NEED to be as fond of British `B' movies of the 1950s as I am to feel that there is something to be said for the production team of Bob Baker and Monty Berman and their production company, Tempean. 1 The second features that emerged from this partnership are generally speaking fast-moving, unpretentious, lively and characterful, and, within their modest budgets, well enough staged to look more expensive than they were. However, it is not my primary intention to offer elaborate analyses of these films, or to make unsustainable claims for their being long- buried, unsung treasures of auteurist film-making. It is worth looking at the Tempean phenomenon for a number of reasons in a book devoted to 1950s British cinema. First, it relates significantly to the exhibition procedures of the period, when audiences typically expected a `double bill', with a main feature and a supporting film, which might be designated either a co-feature or a second feature according to the lavishness of its casting and budget. If a major film ran to over two hours, say, it was likely to be supported by `shorts' (often designated `selected featurettes') rather than by another feature film of the kind made by Tempean. In any case, a three-hour programme was the norm, and as long as this persisted, there was a steady demand for the sort of supporting film Tempean made until the late 1950s.

Thus, second, Tempean sums up a prolific area of 1950s production, fuelled by these exhibition patterns. To riffle through the pages of Denis Gifford's British Film Catalogue is to be aware of how much activity at this level there was from the late 1940s through until the mid-1960s. 2 If it has been the focus for so little critical attention, this may be the result of several factors, including the unforgiving approach to the `quota quickies' of the 1930s, films

____________________
I am Honorary Associate Professor of the School of Literary, Visual and Cultural Studies, Monash University, Melbourne. My recent books include Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation (1996), An Autobiography of British Cinema (1997), The Oxford Companion to Australian Film (co- editor) (1999) and Lance Comfort (1999). I am currently compiling The Encyclopedia of British Film. Brian McFarlane

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