The White Lodge was originally purchased by filmmaker Will Barker in 1902 but it wasn’t until Basil Dean built studios on the site in 1931 that the Ealing we’ve come to know and love was developed.
The first film fully-made at the Ealing studios was called “Nine Till Six”, directed by Basil Dean himself, which premiered at the Regal Marble Arch Cinema in London on the 7th of May 1932.
The studios released films during this period starring Gracie Fields, George Formby, and Stanley Holloway, before Michael Balcon took over the running of Ealing Studios in 1938.
In 1949, Ealing Studios released four comedy films in close succession and the classic British film institution of the Ealing Comedies was firmly established.
The studios had released comedies previously, such as “Hue & Cry” in 1947, but Ealing’s prolific output in 1949 was a boom period for the studios, with critical and commercial success.
1949 saw the release of classic films “Passport to Pimlico“, “Whisky Galore!“, “Kind Hearts & Coronets“, and “A Run For Your Money”, all within the space of seven months.
The post-war films tapped into the public mood, presenting tales of the small underdog battling a larger enemy, generally state bureaucracy or established institutions, and whilst the morals of the time couldn’t allow crime or rebellion to go rewarded, for a brief moment, audiences could will on the unlikely heroes.
The Ealing Comedies employed a regular cast similar to repertory theatre with actors being used across several films. Alec Guinness, Alastair Sim, Stanley Holloway, Joan Greenwood, Barbara Murray, Gordon Jackson, John Gregson, Basil Radford, and Naunton Wayne all appeared in more than one of the films.
Behind the scenes also, a regular team of writers, directors, and producers were utilised by the legendary Ealing boss Michael Balcon to create the memorable and enduring films, including writers T.E.B. (“Tibby”) Clarke & William Rose; and directors Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Charles Frend, Robert Hamer, & Alexander Mackendrick.
The BBC purchased the site in 1955 and many of the corporations productions were filmed or edited there including “Bleak House” with Diana Rigg, “Z-Cars” with Brian Blessed, external scenes for “Porridge” with Ronnie Barker, and Jonathan Miller’s “Alice in Wonderland” with Peter Sellers.
From 1995, the studios re-opened to external productions and have continued to produce films and television shows to this day, including the below-stairs scenes of “Downton Abbey” and, more recently, Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror” and Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” with Terence Stamp & Diana Rigg.
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