The Boulting Brothers and the Contemporary British Film Industry

By Doering, Jonathan W. | Contemporary Review, October 2002 | Go to article overview

The Boulting Brothers and the Contemporary British Film Industry


Doering, Jonathan W., Contemporary Review


THE death last year of Roy Boulting saw the passing of one of the more singular and successful of British film making partnerships. Roy and his twin brother John wrote, produced, and directed a string of features, from before World War Two to the end of the nineteen sixties. Encompassing drama, thriller, documentary, and comedy, the Boulting Brothers established a name for themselves as filmmakers with a particularly British flavour, heading up the production and distribution company British Lion, whilst showing enough pragmatism to make their peace with the Hollywood mainstream.

Despite their solidly middle-class roots, the Boultings offered an example of how enthusiastic hopefuls could carve a name for themselves in film from the bottom up through sheer determination and prolificacy. But can the career of this team offer any useful parallels for analysing the film industry in Britain at the moment?

Born in Bray, Berkshire, in 1917, the Boultings were raised mainly in Hove, a respectable seaside town on the south coast of England. From being taken as toddlers by their nanny to watch Rudolf Valentino in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the nearby 'sin city' of Brighton, the twins were bitten by the film bug, poring over any film magazines to hand, writing their own stories, cutting out pictures from magazines to dramatize them. A little later, they set up the first film society in a British public school. It was clear that they were dedicated to cinema.

Having spent his final teenage years in Canada (working mainly as a shop assistant), Roy returned to England in the early 1930s, working his passage home as a cattle hand on a ship, using his payment to finance his first work, a short entitled Ripe Earth, about the village of Thaxted, Essex. In the meantime, John had found work on Wardour Street, a centre for film production and distribution at the time, as a salesman, graduating into production. They both found work on the 'quota-quickies' of Widgey Newman, turning out cheap entertainments at a fast rate. Their first joint effort at a 'serious' film, The Landlady, was not a success. Filming in a basement, the actors had to shout over the noise of a boiler. On watching the final result, John stated flatly that to protect their chances of future employment in the industry, no one should be allowed to see the film. They learnt quickly, however, and subsequent work (for instance, Consider Your Verdict, in 1938) showed more polish, until they produced a respectab le work in Pastor Hall (1939), fictionalising the torture and murder of Pastor Niemoller by the Nazis. At a time when several countries were still clinging to the hope that the Nazis might be pacified without war, voices were raised against this film within Britain, and several other countries banned it but their reputations as serious filmmakers were assured.

From these early beginnings, we can extrapolate a model for the Boultings' early success: a canny eye for their material, and a willingness to learn their trade working around and up through the industry. This introduction to the industry was possible thanks to the huge demand for films in that period: the average cinema-goer could expect to join both 'A' and 'B' features, newsreels, and a cartoon, with different programmes appended to each 'A' feature. This was not a situation confined to Britain: Richard Siodmark began work in Europe on poverty row films, editing the same footage to create as many as half a dozen different stories. The artistic eclat was, naturally, dubious. But the enforced inventiveness of small budgets and challenging demands meant that filmmakers had to test both their own abilities and the limits of the medium in order to deliver their work. In doing so, they received invaluable experience of what was possible in flimmaking.

The Boultings' first efforts were a trickle amongst a flood of films--some of it brilliant, some of it average, some of it dire. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Boulting Brothers and the Contemporary British Film Industry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.