Friday, June 5, 2015


Hollywood may dominate our movie-going habits, but the British film industry has a lot to shout about.
"British film-making has always been defined by exceptional talents and maverick voices, championing the unique over the uniform," says Jonty Claypole, director of BBC Arts. "Working in close partnership with the BFI, benefitting from their insight and expertise, this ambitious season crosses television, radio, online and cinema screens."
Heather Stewart, Creative Director of the BFI adds: "It's a thrill to work alongside our partners at the BBC to bring Britain's illustrious big screen heritage to the UK's small screens, and highlight some of British cinema's greatest achievements to the widest possible audience."
The Genius of British Cinema season really gets going today, with the 1958 version of A Tale of Two Cities, starring Dirk Bogarde, kicking things off at 7am.
Then, at 9pm, comes Pinewood: 80 Years of Movie Magic, a feature-length documentary about the country's most famous studio.
It was founded in 1935 by J Arthur Rank, who had made his fortune from milling flour and had originally got into film-making as a way of promoting his Methodist beliefs. He joined forces with three other investors to turn Heatherden Hall and its surrounding land near Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire into a studio that would rival anything in Hollywood.
Rank was, however, the driving force behind the project, and branched out into distribution and exhibition so that his movies would never be swamped by American products.
During the 1940s and 1960s, the Rank Organisation was behind some of the most memorable British films ever made, including A Matter of Life and Death, Henry V, Brief Encounter and Great Expectations.
Rank himself remains an important figure, so much so that the house in which he was born in Hull recently underwent a refurbishment and was reopened with much pomp and ceremony, including a muscleman with a gong - which was the symbol of his company.
He may have backed many films over the years, but arguably Rank's greatest creation was Pinewood itself. It's still going strong and is the home of Harry Potter and James Bond, while the forthcoming Star Wars sequels were also shot there.
In this programme, Ross meets some of the stars who have worked at Pinewood, including Barbara Windsor and Joan Collins, and even watches one of John Mills' finest films alongside his daughter, Hayley, who made Whistle Down the Wind there as a child star in the 1960s.
Producer and director Matthew Vaughn shares his memories of making Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service (both co-written with Ross' wife, Jane Goldman), and discusses why the place is so important to makers of blockbusters.

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