AP mast (2K)

BBC TELEVISION from ALEXANDRA PALACE

by Arthur Dungate

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Lime Grove demolition

The end of an era

    The Fantasy Factory

 

LIME GROVE STUDIOS, LONDON, 1915 - 1991

 

   (front cover of book (17K)

The history of Lime Grove from its first silent film productions through its many successes for Gaumont British and Gainsborough Pictures until 1949 when it became the home of a pioneering BBC Television Service which owes much of its establishment to the classic programmes created there.

The only custom-built film studio in Great Britain in 1915, its first productions were newsreels of the First World War and its entertaining Ultus series.

 

 

The daylight studios converted to arc lamps. Maurice Elvey and Victor Saville replaced wartime nostalgia with the filming of many popular books and plays. Silence gave way to “The Talkies”.

In the Thirties Michael Balcon produced the musicals of Jessie Matthews and Jack Hulbert; the comedies of Will Hay and Ben Travers' famous Aldwych farces. John Mills made his debut here in a musical "Midshipmaid" in 1932. Alfred Hitchcock made some of his earliest and best films there, "The 39 Steps" 1935 and "Sabotage" 1936. Boris Karloff came back from Hollywood to make "The Ghoul" here in 1937. Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, Paul Henreid and many others made it their stepping stone to Hollywood. Some of the greatest names in British Cinema history worked here, Michael Powell, Anthony Asquith, Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat, and Carol Reed. David Lean got his first job here, in the cutting rooms.

The Studios became a great fantasy factory; the African veld, the Swiss Alps, the Scottish Moors and Venice were re-created here. The Battle of Trafalgar was fought in its water tank; Pitt addressed a reconstructed House of Commons and the Palace of King Ferdinand of Spain was seen here in Technicolor.

In the Forties the camera crew worked on "Kipps" in 1940 wearing tin hats like a gun crew, some of the staff slept in the basement during the London Blitz making films with a strong propaganda element to entertain wartime audiences. Marcel Varnel and Walter Forde made "spy" comedies with Arthur Askey, Tommy Handley and the Crazy Gang whilst Robert Donat and Rex Harrison showed how Englishness would win the day. The marvellously successful Gainsborough historical romances which entertained the war-weary audiences began with "The Man in Grey" in 1943. It was followed by "The Wicked Lady" 1945, "Caravan" 1946, "The Magic Bow" 1946 and "The Bad Lord Byron" 1948 and many more alongside contemporary subjects such as "Love Story" and "Waterloo Road" 1944.

 

 

When Gaumont British/Gainsborough moved elsewhere in 1949 Lime Grove Studios became the early home of BBC Television. The first TV Stars like Gilbert Harding and Isobel Barnett became household names. Producers and Presenters like Cliff Michelmore, Eamonn Andrews, Huw Weldon, Alan Whicker, Melvyn Bragg, David Frost and Sue Lawley all started here. Ken Russell and John Schlesinger made their first films here before becoming internationally known feature film makers. "Andy Pandy" 1950; "What’s My Line?" 1951; "Sooty" 1952; "Quatermass II" 1955; "This Is Your Life" 1955; "Dixon of Dock Green" 1955; "Hancock’s Half Hour" 1956: "Blue Peter" 1958; "Steptoe & Son" 1962 and "Dr Who" 1963 had their first episodes transmitted from Lime Grove. "Panorama" started there in 1952; "Grandstand" and "Tonight" in 1957; "Nationwide" in 1965. Ground-breaking programmes like "Monitor" 1958 and "That Was the Week That Was" 1962 led the world in innovation. Later "That’s Life" 1973, "Breakfast Time" 1983 and "Kilroy" 1987 began there.

It is almost easier to make a list of World celebrities who did not visit Lime Grove than to list them and the people who worked there retain warm memories of it. It closed in 1991 and was demolished in 1993. This short history is published by Venta Books for the Shepherd's Bush Local History Society in celebration of the Centenary of the Cinema in 1996.

ISBN 95102888 X. 250 Pages.150 Photographs. Hardback.

The book is available from -

 
 

Jocelyn Lukins
14 Keith Grove
London W12 9EZ


Special Internet Offer Price: £10 + £1 postage (UK)

 

 

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