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British Lion Film Corporation

Production Company / Distributor

Main image of British Lion Film Corporation

Although British Lion was a prolific company operating successfully from the 1920s, it is best known for the period when it was managed by Alexander Korda. Korda's company London Films bought the controlling interest in British Lion in 1946 and then went on to acquire Shepperton Studios, basing production there.

Korda was known for his charm and indefatigable drive, as well as his unpredictable temper. He twice created film empires of enormous influence and for a time was considered the most important producer outside Hollywood. He was also the first film producer to be knighted.

Early British Lion projects such as An Ideal Husband (d. Alexander Korda, 1947) were received quite well, but the films that made the company's name were The Fallen Idol (d. Carol Reed, 1948) and The Third Man (d. Reed, 1949) - the collaboration between Graham Greene and Carol Reed proving to be a winning formula. Both films received Academy Awards.

The company ran into trouble after accepting a National Film Finance Corporation loan in 1949. The loan was aimed at boosting production at a time when the quota for British films had been raised as a result of the 1948 Cinematograph Films Act. Consequently, both cinemas and producers had to screen and distribute a proportion of British films in order to satisfy the government. Cinemas were desperate for British film product and Korda took advantage of the situation.

Unfortunately though, Korda misjudged production costs and overstretched himself and found he was unable to pay back the loan. As a result the company went into receivership in 1955 and other famous directors such as the Boulting brothers, Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat were bought in to oversee the newly formed British Lion Films Ltd.

Alexander Korda died in 1956, but under the new management the company went on to produce classics such as Private's Progress (d. John Boulting, 1956), I'm All Right Jack (d. John Boulting, 1959) and The Family Way (d. Roy Boulting,1966).

Lou Alexander

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