Over the life of this website we've often noted how distinguished stage actors dabbled in cinema as a lucrative sideline which served to subsidise their "art". However, it wasn't only actors who slummed it in pictures for a bit of spare cash. Many writers also took to cinema and made contributions just as great as the showier actors. Rodney Ackland was one of those.
Ackland was born in Southend. His theatrical leanings came from his mother who was a music hall turn and performed at the Follies Bergere. Ackland studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama and was busy on the theatre club scene. His first play, Improper People, was produced in 1929 and he got a position writing at British International Pictures. He lost that position in 1931 when he scored a success with his play Strange Orchestra and BIP decided he was perhaps a bit too arty for them.
Several successes followed, though mainly in small theatre clubs: Ackland's work was too dark for the West End. He came back to cinema with Bank Holiday. He established enough of a reputation as a screenwriter to be offered the chance to direct, though Thursday's Child was his only feature as director.
His film career came to an end with Queen of Spades. He co-wrote the Pushkin adaptation and began directing the production but was replaced a few days into the shoot by Thorold Dickinson. It's unclear why he was replaced though there is speculation about personality clashes between him and actors Anton Walbrook or Edith Evans. Certainly his relationship with producer Anatole de Grunwald was bad enough for Ackland and co-writer (and probable lover) Arthur Boys to later sue over the size of their writing credits. They won, but Ackland never worked in film again.
Ackland's theatrical career was drawing to a close too. In 1952 his play The Pink Room was condemned by critics as grubby. And when the Angry Young Men revolution hit theatres a few years late, Ackland was lumped together with all the other practitioners of the well made play and dumped. Though his writing career was effectively over, his personal life took a turn for the better on his marriage to Mab Londsale.
Ackland lived long enough to see the beginning of the restoration of his literary reputation, though it was after his death with the NT's production of The Pink Room (unexpurgated and renamed Absolute Hell) in 1995 that the real breakthrough happened.
|1931||The Skin Game (actor only)|
|1935||The Case of Gabriel Perry (actor only)|
|1939||The Silent Battle|
|1939||Young Man's Fancy|
|1940||A Call for Arms!|
|1940||An Englishman's Home|
|1940||Under Your Hat|
|1940||Miss Grant Goes to the Door|
|1940||George and Margaret|
|1941||Lady Be Kind (short + dir)|
|1942||Alibi (actor only)|
|1943||Thursday's Child (+ dir)|
|1943||The New School (short + dir)|
|1944||The Hundred Pound Window|
|1945||En Ny Dag Gryer|
|1946||A Voice in the Night|
|1949||Queen of Spades|
Rodney Ackland at Amazon UK
Rodney Ackland at Amazon US