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The Gongman (also known as the "man-with-the-gong") is a company trademark for the Rank Organisation. It was used as the introduction to all Rank films, many of which were created at their Pinewood Studios. The Gongman logo was first used on films distributed by General Film Distributors, which was established in 1935 by the British producer C. M. Woolf and J. Arthur Rank; it was C.M. Woolf's secretary who devised the man-with-a-gong trademark. When the Rank Organisation was established in 1937, with General Film Distributors as one of its cornerstones, the logo was adopted for the whole organisation.
The Gongman film logo sequence depicts a man striking a huge gong with a deep resonant sound. The gongs used in the films were props made of plaster or papier-mâché, with the sound of the gong done by James Blades on a Chinese instrument called a tam tam. During the sequence, the text "General Film Distributors", " J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors", "J. Arthur Rank presents" or "'The Rank Organisation" appeared over the gong.
Athletes who played the Gongman in the film sequence over the years, included boxer Bombardier Billy Wells and wrestler Ken Richmond. Also, George Francis Moss Snr played the Gongman. In 2012, to celebrate the Gongman's 75th anniversary, The Rank Group, the gaming company that in 1996 acquired the remaining business interests of Rank Organisation as well as the rights to its logo and name, announced a nationwide competition to find a new Gongman or woman for the 21st century.
The Gongman was often parodied. In Carry On up the Khyber, Kenneth Williams' character refers to an over-enthusiastic gongman's attitude as "rank stupidity". The opening to the ATV Thursday Picture Show used an animated version. According to Sub-TV, which has a video of the opening, "the gong-smasher here is a non-muscley man in an old-fashioned swimming costume and a cloth cap!" The man whacks an ATV logo, not a gong, and the logo smashes into pieces.
In the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial spoof El E.T.E. y el OTO, there is a logo at the beginning and end of the film for the company "Manuel Esteba P.C." that shows a muscular man in red briefs hitting a gong that immediately breaks. At the end, he is shown trying to fix the gong, but he fails, and cries in frustration.
The now defunct Swedish film distributor Triangelfilm had a similar vignette with an animated man hitting a triangle.
In the American television series Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders, the production company that produced the show had two men that were about ready to strike a gong (a la the "Gongman"), with the man on the right (holding the gong mallet) striking the man on the left in the groin region and leaving him in agony (this was followed by a gong sound).
During the Gilligan's Island episode in which the castaways produce a film explaining their situation to any potential viewer, Gilligan performs their own version of the Rank logo sequence; when he strikes the gong, he shakes uncontrollably at the vibrations it creates.
The Hungarian animated movie Macskafogó opens with a round cat's face which a mouse strikes like a gong.
On The Muppets Go to the Movies, the Muppets parody the Gongman with "J. Arthur Link", showing Muppet pig Link Hogthrob in the nude, swinging at the gong, missing, spinning around losing his balance, and hitting the gong with his head. The Muppet Show opening, with Gonzo swinging at the "O" in Muppet Show, and having bad things happen (i.e. breaking the "O" or the gong-beater exploding) might[according to whom?] also be a parody.
In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Moving Pictures the gong exists in a temple which is a portal to the Dungeon Dimensions. Standing in for the gongman is a suitably proportioned troll made of living rock.
- The Independent 1 July 1999: Obituary: Sir John Woolf Retrieved 2011-09-02
- "Moving Pictures", Terry Pratchett, HarperTorch; Reissue edition (February 5, 2002) ISBN 978-0061020636
- sub-TV page which contains the open to the ATV Thursday Picture Show in MPEG format
- Article in The Independent about the death of final Gongman Ken Richmond and a little about the role