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Box, Betty (1915-1999)


Main image of Box, Betty (1915-1999)

During a career spanning more than 30 years, Betty Evelyn Box (born in Beckenham, Kent, on 25 September 1915) more than held her own in a male-dominated industry, becoming one of the most consistently successful producers of her generation, with a flair for making genuinely popular British films.

She entered film in 1942, joining her brother Sydney Box at Verity Films, where she helped produce over 200 wartime shorts. Postwar, she made the transition to feature films, co-producing The Upturned Glass (d. Lawrence Huntington, 1947) at Riverside Studios. When Sydney took over Gainsborough in 1946, he appointed her Head of Production at the Islington studio, where she produced ten films in two years.

While tight budgets and shooting schedules compromised the quality of some of them, Box's time at Islington consolidated her unusual position as a woman producer, and with films such as When the Bough Breaks (d. Huntington, 1947) she was responsible for some of most politically interesting films of the period.

When Gainsborough Studios closed in 1949, Box moved to Rank's Pinewood Studios, where her first years were among the toughest of her career. Indeed Box mortgaged her house to provide bridging finance for The Clouded Yellow (1950), the first of her 30-odd feature collaborations with director Ralph Thomas. It is for their popular 'Doctor' cycle - from Doctor in the House (1954) until Doctor in Trouble (1970) - that Box is perhaps best remembered. Although often dismissed as formulaic, they tackled issues of gender and class with an irreverence which clearly struck a chord with contemporary audiences.

Box was characteristically modest about her achievements, claiming that she had never regarded herself as a serious filmmaker, but she survived, indeed thrived, during difficult transitional years of British cinema. Her second husband was producer Peter Rogers. She was awarded the OBE in 1958.

Box, Betty, Lifting the Lid, (2000)

Justine Ashby, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Hugely popular medical comedy, the first in a long-running series

Thumbnail image of Miranda (1948)Miranda (1948)

Glynis Johns plays a mermaid in this light fishy comedy

Thumbnail image of Tale of Two Cities, A (1958)Tale of Two Cities, A (1958)

Dirk Bogarde stars as an idealistic lawyer in this Dickens adaptation

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Women on both sides of the camera

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Thumbnail image of Thomas, Ralph (1915-2001)Thomas, Ralph (1915-2001)

Director, Writer, Producer