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Elstree Studios


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Film studio complex attached to Elstree, the small town in once-rural Hertfordshire. Sometimes called the 'British Hollywood', the name refers to a total of six separate studios of varying size and fame that were set up in the area at different times. These combined to produce the largest and most vibrant film community in the history of British film, albeit one frequently subject to financial and other misfortunes.

The first of the Elstree studios to open was Neptune Studios in 1914, in its day the finest in England, and in its brief life was responsible for numerous patriotic silent films before closing in 1921, after which time new studios were set up in the area and Elstree had its golden years. In 1927 the newly formed British International Pictures, which later became Associated British, commenced operations. Among its early notable productions was Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929), the first British all-talkie, and one of ABPC's most famous Elstree films was The Dam Busters (d. Michael Anderson, 1955).

Later decades saw increasing American involvement, culminating in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies. Eventually ownership of the site passed to the Brent Walker Entertainment Group, which in 1988 attempted to revive the Elstree legend through its Goldcrest Studios venture. After the failure of Goldcrest, partial redevelopment of the site and protracted legal disputation the remaining film facilities were sold to the Hertsmere Borough Council.

Another major facility which flourished under American patronage started life in 1935 as Amalgamated Studios and in 1948 became the MGM-British Studios, initially specialising in opulent costume dramas and later playing host to such immense projects as Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) before 1970 when it too closed and later was sold off. Two tribute films from the earlier times, Elstree Calling (d. Adrian Brunel, 1930) and The Elstree Story (d. Gilbert Gunn, 1952), are a legacy of Elstree's golden years, the former a collection of sketches, including several directed by Hitchcock, the latter a compilation spanning 25 years of filmmaking.

Warren, Patricia, Elstree: The British Hollywood (1982).

Simon Caterson, Encyclopedia of British Film

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