Ealing must vie with Hammer as the most recognisably "British" film studio yet, despite its long history, it's really only the post-war comedies that get attention. This book sets out to give a more rounded picture of the studio and its personnel.
The use of the Ealing site as a film studio is thanks to Will Barker who developed the site in 1902. He ran the studio successfully until his retirement in 1920. Throughout the 20s the buildings were rented out to any film company in need of production space. At the end of the decade the studio was bought by ATP (Associated Talking Pictures) and the facilities modernised to cope with sound. This was under the control of Basil Dean. When Dean left in 1938, his position was taken over by Michael Balcon. It was Balcon who developed Ealing as a brand rather than just a convenient facility for film making.
Ealing as a place to make films faded out in the mid-50s as the Ealing company failed and it was bought by the BBC for television. The studio was revived in 2002.
Although most of Ealing's history is covered in the book, the bulk of the attention is on the Balcon years. The Ealing Comedies themselves perhaps get less attention than they deserve, but since they are well documented elsewhere that is understandable and there is a useful essay by Tim O'Sullivan discussing the difference between Ealing Comedies and "comedies made at Ealing".
The book shines a spotlight on some of the less well-known figures of the time such as composer George Auric and designer Anthony Mendleson, and also on aspects of the Ealing package such as star building and advertising. Stephen Morgan's essay on Ealing's neglected Australian films and Charles Barr's on Kenneth Tynan's time at Ealing stand out.
With this book and with Network releasing Ealing Rarities on DVD, we are now able to see Ealing Studios as a whole rather than just a place that made comedies.
Pub: Palgrave Macmillan
Ealing Revisited at Amazon UK