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Danischewsky, Monja (1911-1994)

Producer, Writer

Main image of Danischewsky, Monja (1911-1994)

For ten years Monja Danischewsky, invariably known as 'Danny', was Ealing Studios' director of publicity, a job he handled with flair and ebullience. After this he achieved some success as a screenwriter and producer, mainly of comedies, but it's for his contribution to the lasting reputation of Ealing as Britain's best-loved film studio that he'll be best remembered.

He was born in Archangel into a Russian-Jewish family who left Russia for England in 1919. After studying at the Royal College of Art, he began working as a painter and a journalist before entering the film industry as a publicist. In 1938, after working at several studios including MGM-British at Denham, he joined Ealing as its director of publicity, soon after Michael Balcon became studio head. A gregarious man with an irrepressible sense of humour, he established warm relations with the press and brought his artistic training to bear on the production of the studio's publicity material. Among his achievements was raising the standard of British movie advertising by persuading such artists as John Piper, Henry Moore and Edward Ardizzone to design posters.

Danischewsky's attitude to the Ealing ethos was teasingly affectionate; it was he who dubbed the studio 'Mr Balcon's Academy for Young Gentlemen'. In 1948, tiring of publicity, he moved over into producing; his first film as a producer, Whisky Galore! (1949), was also the debut of director Alexander Mackendrick. Despite some personality clashes between the two men, and Balcon's misgivings, the film proved one of the studio's biggest box-office hits. Encouraged, Danischewsky set up as an independent writer/producer, though still retaining ties with Ealing: he co-scripted the Australian-set drama Bitter Springs (d. Ralph Smart, 1950), and produced the comedies Meet Mr Lucifer (d. Anthony Pelissier, 1953) and The Love Lottery (d. Charles Crichton, 1954).

Among Danischewsky's independent productions were The Galloping Major (d. Henry Cornelius, 1951), the Peter Sellers vehicle The Battle of the Sexes (d. Charles Crichton, 1959), and Two and Two Make Six (d. Freddie Francis, 1962), all of which he scripted. He also took screenwriting credit on Rockets Galore! (d. Michael Relph, 1957), a disappointing sequel to his first success. His greatest triumph as a writer, though, was the comedy-thriller Topkapi (US, 1964), which won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Danischewsky's friend and fellow-Russian Peter Ustinov, as well as a stack of other awards. Jules Dassin directed, playing the plot of his 1955 French hit Rififi for laughs.

Danischewsky's final film as producer was the family drama Run Wild, Run Free (d. Richard C. Sarafian, 1969). In 1966 he published White Russian - Red Face, a charmingly idiosyncratic and self-deprecating autobiography packed with anecdotes, jokes, reminiscences of the movie world and accounts of his eccentric family.

Philip Kemp

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Bitter Springs (1950)Bitter Springs (1950)

Confused but interesting drama about the plight of Australian Aborigines

Thumbnail image of Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948)Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948)

Ealing's first Technicolor film, an uncharacteristic period melodrama

Thumbnail image of Whisky Galore! (1949)Whisky Galore! (1949)

Gently subversive Ealing comedy about whisky smuggling in the Hebrides

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Thumbnail image of Who's Who at EalingWho's Who at Ealing

Meet the team at 'the studio with team spirit'

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