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Relph, Michael (1915-2004)

Producer, Director, Writer

Main image of Relph, Michael (1915-2004)

Michael Relph began his career in 1932 working under Alfred Junge in the Gaumont-British Art Department, joining Ealing in 1942, having also designed for the stage from 1934. At Ealing he embarked on a longstanding, creative partnership with director Basil Dearden, sometimes sharing with Dearden the producer-director-writer credit in the manner of - if not with the same panache as - Powell and Pressburger.

Relph later described himself and Dearden as the 'workhorses' of Ealing, and certainly they turned out more films there than any of the other production teams. The films on which Relph is credited as director are not among his favourites: he never felt he had the director's temperament and also felt he only directed what Dearden didn't want to.

It may be argued that Relph's greatest achievement, apart from the very considerable one of providing a congenial production climate for Dearden, was as designer, especially during his great period at Ealing in the '40s, when he was responsible for the varied production values of They Came to a City (d. Dearden, 1944), with its deliberately stylised sets, the realistic evocation of a prisoner-of-war camp in The Captive Heart (d. Dearden, 1946), the provincial chintziness under threat in Frieda (d. Dearden, 1947), the class-discriminatory settings in Kind Hearts and Coronets (d. Robert Hamer, 1949), the documentary-like realism of The Blue Lamp (d. Dearden, 1949) and, above all, the Oscar-nominated designs for the sumptuous Technicolor period film, Saraband for Dead Lovers (d. Dearden, 1948).

Relph and Dearden continued their successful partnership after the demise of Ealing until Dearden's death in a car crash in 1971. Relph became chairman of the BFI Production Board in 1972 and returned to film production only three more times. The son of George Relph, he is the father of Simon Relph.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of All Night Long (1961)All Night Long (1961)

Shakespeare's Othello meets the early 1960s London jazz scene

Thumbnail image of Bells Go Down, The (1943)Bells Go Down, The (1943)

Stirring film about the Fire Services in Blitz-torn London

Thumbnail image of Blue Lamp, The (1949)Blue Lamp, The (1949)

Classic Ealing police drama that introduced PC George Dixon

Thumbnail image of Captive Heart, The (1946)Captive Heart, The (1946)

Ealing POW drama, made only a few months after the end of WWII

Thumbnail image of Champagne Charlie (1944)Champagne Charlie (1944)

Lively recreation of the bawdy atmosphere of Victorian music-halls

Thumbnail image of Dead of Night (1945)Dead of Night (1945)

Classic Ealing portmanteau film: five tales of the supernatural

Thumbnail image of Frieda (1947)Frieda (1947)

Ealing social problem melodrama about postwar anti-German prejudice

Thumbnail image of Halfway House, The (1944)Halfway House, The (1944)

Unusual cross between ghost story and WWII propaganda film

Thumbnail image of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Deliciously dark comedy, featuring no fewer than nine Alec Guinnesses

Thumbnail image of League of Gentlemen, The (1960)League of Gentlemen, The (1960)

Classic heist comedy with Jack Hawkins leading an all-star cast

Thumbnail image of Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, The (1947)Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, The (1947)

Cavalcanti's adaptation of Dickens' classic novel

Thumbnail image of My Learned Friend (1943)My Learned Friend (1943)

Surprisingly dark Will Hay comedy about the law, blackmail and murder

Thumbnail image of Pool of London (1950)Pool of London (1950)

Two sailors on leave are caught up in a diamond smuggling racket

Thumbnail image of Sapphire (1959)Sapphire (1959)

The murder of a black girl in London reveals widespread racial tension

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 Smallest Show on Earth, The (1957)Smallest Show on Earth, The (1957)

Nostalgic comedy about a couple who inherit a failing cinema

Thumbnail image of Unsuitable Job for a Woman, An (1981)Unsuitable Job for a Woman, An (1981)

Imaginative, underrated adaptation of the P.D.James detective thriller

Thumbnail image of Victim (1961)Victim (1961)

Dirk Bogarde stars in the first serious British film about homosexuality

Thumbnail image of Violent Playground (1958)Violent Playground (1958)

Powerful drama with Stanley Baker as a juvenile liaison officer

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Thumbnail image of Dearden, Basil (1911-1971)Dearden, Basil (1911-1971)

Director, Producer, Writer

Thumbnail image of Relph, Simon (1940-)Relph, Simon (1940-)

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Thumbnail image of Ealing Studios (1938-59)Ealing Studios (1938-59)

Film Studio, Production Company