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Baker, Reginald (1896-1985)

Producer, Executive

Main image of Baker, Reginald (1896-1985)

A co-founder of Ealing Studios and a key figure there for some 30 years, 'Major' Reginald Baker became one of Britain's best-known producers.

Following his WWI service, he worked in accountancy before moving into film production, negotiating the purchase of Gainsborough Pictures' Islington site from Famous Players-Lasky. When theatre producer Basil Dean founded Associated Talking Pictures (ATP) in 1929, Baker was first to join the management team, quickly followed by textiles heir Stephen Courtauld. Construction costs on the company's new studios at Ealing having doubled by late 1931, he and Courtauld arranged additional finance, ensuring production continued.

In 1938, with ATP struggling, he invited his former Gainsborough employer Michael Balcon to take over the studio from Dean; Balcon subsequently hailed their 20-year partnership as the most successful of his career. An early collaboration was The Ware Case (dir. Robert Stevenson, 1938), which helped move Ealing beyond the Gracie Fields and George Formby vehicles that had been the studios' trademark.

Baker was, like Balcon, a vocal critic of what he saw as the monopolisation of British film exhibition by the Rank Organisation, and in 1944 he negotiated a more favourable co-production and distribution deal for Ealing. However, following the withdrawal of Courtauld's financing in 1952, he and Balcon were reluctantly forced to end this arrangement, selling the Ealing lot to the BBC in 1955 and relocating to MGM's Boreham Wood studios.

Richard Hewett

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Executive, Producer