Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Rank Organisation, The

Production Company

Main image of Rank Organisation, The

The Rank empire dominated British cinema throughout the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and to some extent the 1960s. During this period, its owner and founder J. Arthur Rank not only owned a large proportion of the studio space available to filmmakers at the time, but also a large number of cinemas.

Rank, a lay preacher and flour magnate, entered the film industry in the 1930s with the intention of making films with strong religious and moral themes, and built his flagship studio at Pinewood with this end in mind. Throughout his life he retained this interest but realised early on that this kind of subject was unlikely to be very profitable. Consequently, Rank went on to make an enormous number of films with a very wide appeal, all beginning with the famous man with a gong trademark that was known internationally.

In the early years Rank employed many of the great directors of the time including Hitchcock, Powell and Pressburger, David Lean and Carol Reed, although many were tempted away later by the promise of Hollywood or the idea of working in independent conditions.

During the 1940s Rank was responsible for classics such as In Which We Serve (d. Noel Coward and David Lean, 1942), Henry V (d. Laurence Olivier, 1944), Great Expectations (d. Lean, 1946), The Red Shoes (d. Powell and Pressburger, 1948), The Browning Version (d. Anthony Asquith, 1951), Genevieve (d. Henry Cornelius, 1953) and Reach for the Sky (d. Lewis Gilbert, 1956).

The extremely popular Doctor and Carry On series enabled Rank to stay afloat during the difficult times of the 1960s as American investment declined, although many US films were made at Pinewood during the decade and continue to be made today.

Unfortunately, Rank failed to invest in television when the medium was becoming increasingly popular and cinema audiences were declining. Consequently, the company lost its hold on the film industry, although it continued to invest in the entertainment industry by developing the Rank Xerox photocopying machine.

Lou Alexander

Selected credits

Related Collections

Related People and Organisations

Thumbnail image of Davis, John (1906-1993)Davis, John (1906-1993)


Thumbnail image of Rank, J. Arthur (1888-1972)Rank, J. Arthur (1888-1972)


Thumbnail image of Pinewood StudiosPinewood Studios


Related media