Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Danzigers, The

Producers, Executives

Main image of Danzigers, The

Prolific independent producers of over 140 second features and six television series, Edward J.Danziger (1909-1999) and Harry Danziger (c.1920-), mainly under the banner of Danziger Photoplays, represented quantity over quality and were perhaps the most industrious British low budget production outfit of the 1950s.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, their second features and TV series seemed to be on screens everywhere, their pervasive presence forming a part of virtually every British filmgoer's and television viewer's experience during those years.

Before arriving in Britain in 1952, American brothers Edward and Harry Danziger had operated a sound studio in New York that specialised in the dubbing of foreign films for US release. Scant reference to their vague background indicates that Edward had studied law and, while in the US Army, had been associated with the War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg at the end of the Second World War. Harry had studied music at the New York Academy and at some time had played trumpet in a cruise ship band.

In 1949, they turned to feature production and produced the race hate drama Jigsaw (US, d. Fletcher Markle), starring Franchot Tone and Jean Wallace. They followed with So Young So Bad (US, d. Bernard Vorhaus, 1950), a study of female juvenile delinquency, St Benny the Dip (US, d. Edgar G. Ulmer, 1951), a rambling Runyonesque comedy, and the Arabian Nights parody Babes in Bagdad (US, d. Ulmer, 1952), filmed (in colour) on location in Spain and starring Paulette Goddard.

They began making television films in England in 1953, renting space at London's Riverside Studios to produce 13 episodes of the half-hour crime anthology Calling Scotland Yard (employing, curiously enough, recently blacklisted Hollywood director Joseph Losey as a script editor).

While the series as such was not shown on British television, two compilation features (each consisting of three episodes) were released to UK cinemas as Gilbert Harding Speaking of Murder (1953) and A Tale of Three Women (1954), both directed by Paul Dickson and introduced and linked by broadcaster Gilbert Harding.

However, most of the Calling Scotland Yard episodes were released to cinemas in both the US and UK as a series of supporting 'featurettes' (27 minutes) by Paramount between 1954 and 1955. The series was eventually transmitted in the US in 1956 by NBC TV under the title Adventure Theatre and was hosted by American actor Paul Douglas.

For the production of their early cinema films and TV series in England, including the anthology series The Vise (filmed 1954-55; shown via various ITV companies from 1955), the Danzigers leased space from various studios - Shepperton, Boreham Wood, Nettlefold - before deciding to form their own studio base.

In 1956, they founded the New Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, converting the existing site of a former wartime aero-engine testing factory into a self-contained production headquarters with six sound stages and exterior shooting facilities (which would at one time employ some 200 craftsmen and technicians on its seven and a half acre site).

The Vise, hosted by Australian actor Ron Randell, was a catch-all crime and mystery series structured along similar twist-at-the-end lines to contemporary series Douglas Fairbanks Presents (which, incidentally, was at one time using the Danzigers' facilities at New Elstree). The Danzigers' factory line production saw on average two episodes being turned out per week (the second features were made in about five days).

Various episodes of The Vise (65 had been produced) were also seen in syndicated packages such as The Pendulum (US title, 1955-56; hosted by John Bentley), The Crooked Path (ITV, tx. from 1959) and Tension (ITV, tx. from 1962).

At the end of 1955, The Vise dropped its anthology format and became a standard mystery series featuring the private investigations of former Scotland Yard man Mark Saber, played by Donald Gray (who had lost his arm during the Second World War). Mark Saber (aka The Vise: Mark Saber) was shown on US television (ABC-TV) during 1955-57; in Britain some ITV companies (Associated-Rediffusion London, ATV Midlands) ran the series from 1957.

The Danzigers' assembly line of episodes appeared to be relentless and Donald Gray's Saber continued his exploits in Saber of London from September 1957 after moving from the ABC network over to NBC, where it would run until 1959. Between 1957 and 1960 the series was shown in some US syndicated markets as Saber of Scotland Yard. Some ITV regions (Granada, ATV Midlands, Associated Rediffusion London) ran the series from 1959 in a rather irregular pattern of scheduling, sometimes mid evening, sometimes supplementing the Sunday afternoon slot but for the most part filling the late evening period.

Their next production, The Man from Interpol (various ITV regions from 1960), starred Richard Wyler as a special agent of Scotland Yard's Interpol Division. This uneasy attempt to graft a youthful hero (Wyler's boyish projection) on to a rugged crime-buster framework usually associated with more mature leading characters - Charles Korvin's Inspector Duval in the 1959-60 series Interpol Calling (ITV), for instance - gave The Man from Interpol little more than an air of tired hysteria. (The Danzigers' 1958 support feature High Jump, directed by Godfrey Grayson, had marked the British debut, as Richard Wyler, of Hollywood actor Richard Stapley).

The Cheaters (ITV), an insurance claims investigator drama starring John Ireland, followed in December 1960. In missing a perfect opportunity to exploit the tough-cynical characteristics of the leading player, the 39 episodes moved with painful lethargy towards their predictable conclusions, with the most notable feature of this largely static series being John Ireland's carefully sustained somnambulistic performance.

Their final TV series, Richard the Lionheart (ITV, tx. from 1961) was, reputedly, their most expensive and ambitious (episodes were allowed up to a week of shooting if necessary). The 39 half-hour episodes starred Dermot Walsh as the legendary King Richard I, who took part in the Third Crusade against the sultan Saladin. Despite the treadmill efforts of the production (with the majority of scripts written by Paul Tabori and Stanley Miller, and the entire series directed by Ernest Morris), this routine swashbuckler, presenting an atmosphere of knightly conduct versus villainous skulduggery, was saved from total tedium by the presence of recurring players Trader Faulkner, a sneering Prince John, and Francis de Wolfe as the delightfully monstrous Leopold of Austria.

By the time production on Richard the Lionheart had started, in April 1961, the Danzigers' New Elstree Studios was beginning to wind down. The last episode of Lionheart was completed in early December 1961, as was the last of their second features, the swashbuckler The Spanish Sword (d. Ernest Morris, 1962); the latter utilising sets, props and costumes - as well as cast members - from the Lionheart series.

Despite the imminent closure of the studios, and while Richard the Lionheart was still in production, the Danzigers were preparing scripts for what would be their first colour TV series, the Arabian Nights adventures of Ali Baba (a project first proposed, apparently, as far back as 1956). However, the idea was abandoned when the commissioning company (Associated Rediffusion) withdrew.

In 1958, at the peak of their productivity, the Danzigers had acquired control of the Gordon Hotels group, which operated London's May Fair and Grosvenor and the Metropoles at Folkestone, Brighton and Monte Carlo. By the time their film and television production was tapering off in 1961, the brothers were focusing their interest on the hotel business (and a few of the studio personnel even went to work at the May Fair.

In early 1964, they sold the Gordon Hotels group and in April 1965 they joined the board of the Shipman and King Cinemas group (controlling some 34 exhibition venues in southern England). They sold New Elstree Studios in October 1965 to RTZ Metals, a subsidiary of mineral resources combine Rio Tinto Zinc, for £300,000 as warehouse storage.

Between 1953 and 1961, the Danzigers had produced about 400 half-hour episodes and at one time, at their high point, had produced around 16 second features a year as well as working on two series of 39 half-hour films. During the 1950s they were the most financially successful independent television production company in the UK.

Tise Vahimagi

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Richard the Lionheart (1961-65)Richard the Lionheart (1961-65)

Adventure series featuring the exploits of the Crusader King

Related collections

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Clemens, Brian (1931-)Clemens, Brian (1931-)

Writer, Producer

Thumbnail image of Varnel, Max (1925-1996)Varnel, Max (1925-1996)

Director, Producer, Writer