When Charles Barr's study of Ealing Studios was first issued in 1977 it became an instant classic. Now on its third edition, it's still essential reading.
Barr charts the evolution of the studio from its beginnings as a little backwater studio facility, through its becoming a significant production company with a string of classic films to its name, and on to its decline and fall.
Throughout the narrative Barr draws parallels between the films and the state of the studio and of society. For example, the film Cheer Boys Cheer with its tale of a small traditional brewery trying to hold out against a big modern concern is seen as a parable about Ealing's own struggle to keep its identity. Passport to Pimlico has as much to do with nostalgia for the Spirit of the Blitz as a kick against Austerity. Occasionally this goes too far, as with his famous comparison between the gang in The Ladykillers and the Atlee government (undone by middle-class conservatism).
This is one of those rare film books that consider the input of the scriptwriter as well as the director. Of course, with writers as great as T.E.B. Clarke, Angus Macphail and Roland Pertwee this is understandable, but it's surprising how often they are neglected in favour of directors such as Robert Hamer and Alexander Mackendrick. The true star of the book, however, is producer Michael Balcon who created and controlled the studio's ethos.
Ealing Studios has loads of pictures and plenty of meat in the text to keep you reading. If you haven't read it then it's highly recommended.
Pub: Cameron & Hollis
ISBN: 0 - 906506 - 11 - 5