Hollywood and the United Kingdom

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Hollywood and the United Kingdom are connected via the American industry's use of British source material, an exchange of talent, and Hollywood's financial investment in British facilities and productions. The American studios have had their own bases in the UK in the past, such as MGM-British, and Warner Bros. owned shares in British distributor Warner-Pathé, once part of the Associated British Pictures Corporation.

British source material[edit]

Numerous Hollywood films have a British dimension (based on British people, stories or events), many of which have had enormous worldwide commercial success. Two of the top eight highest-grossing films worldwide of all time have some British historical, cultural or creative dimensions: Titanic (1997), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), made in New Zealand, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2005). Adding four more Harry Potter films and one more Lord of the Rings movie, plus the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland (2010), and more than half of the top twenty most financially successful films, had a substantial British dimension.[1]

British influence can also be seen with the 'English Cycle' of Disney animated films, which include Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), and The Jungle Book (1967).[2] Disney first became interested in live-action films as a means of using financial reserves which had built up in Britain, and could not be repatriated owing to exchange controls, by making two films from Scottish and English sources. These were Treasure Island (1950) and The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952), which were both successes at the box office. The studio continued to draw on British source material for its animated films after Walt Disney's death in 1967, with the cartoon feature films Robin Hood (1973), The Rescuers (1976) and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), one of many Disney to draw on A. A. Milne's characters.

Exchange of talent[edit]

Kate Winslet has starred in a number of Hollywood films including Titanic (1997)

Many UK actors have achieved international fame and critical success, including Julie Andrews,[3] Christian Bale, Richard Burton,[4] Helena Bonham Carter,[5] Kenneth Branagh, Michael Caine,[6] Charlie Chaplin,[7] Ronald Colman, Sean Connery,[8] Daniel Day-Lewis, Denholm Elliott, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Colin Firth,[9] Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, John Gielgud, Alec Guinness, Rex Harrison, Olivia de Havilland, Audrey Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Bob Hoskins,[10] John Hurt,[11] Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley,[12] Angela Lansbury, Stan Laurel, Vivien Leigh,[13] James Mason, Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, Sam Neill, David Niven,[14] Peter O'Toole, Gary Oldman, Laurence Olivier,[15] Guy Pearce, Pete Postlethwaite, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Tim Roth,[16] Peter Sellers,[17] Maggie Smith, Tilda Swinton, Elizabeth Taylor, Emma Thompson, Naomi Watts, and Kate Winslet.[18] For a period, three of the most famous American superheroes were portrayed by Britons: Christian Bale as Batman, Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, and Henry Cavill as Superman. Some actors, such as Sam Wanamaker and, in recent years, Kevin Spacey, have settled in Britain.

Directors too have crossed the Atlantic. Alfred Hitchcock is perhaps the most notable British director in Hollywood, gaining his greatest prestige, and made the bulk of his most important pictures, in the United States, but numerous other British directors have found success in America, including: Richard Attenborough, John Boorman, Danny Boyle, Charlie Chaplin, Stephen Frears, David Lean, Sam Mendes, Anthony Minghella, Alan Parker, Carol Reed, John Schlesinger, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan and Tony Scott. American directors who have made their home in Britain include Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick, and Joseph Losey.

American studios in Britain[edit]

The American studios have had their own production facilities and subsidiaries in the UK. Warner Bros. acquired Teddington Studios to produce 'quota quickies' around 1931. American production companies were required to invest in British product for their own films to be shown in the UK. Paramount-British Productions were formed in 1931 having leased facilities from Herbert Wilcox the previous year, and would continue (later using Pinewood) until the war. The earliest films made by Alexander Korda in Britain, before the foundation of London Films, were also released through Paramount.[19] Other major American studios (Fox, Columbia and RKO) invested in British-made films through subsidiaries.

MGM-British was established just before the Second World War at Denham Studios, and produced four films there including Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). Revived after the war and based in Borehamwood, MGM-British was involved in producing filmns for over twenty years until the parent companies closure of the studio in 1970. For a time, after the war, Rank partly owned Universal-International, who distributed such films as Hamlet (1948) in the United States.

Warner Bros. once had shares in the Associated British Pictures Corporation, and eventually took a 50% share (with ABPC controlling the remainder) in domestic company Warner-Pathé Distributors from 1958. Warner withdrew its involvement in 1967. Meanwhile, Universal made 13 films in Britain during this period with limited box office success and Paramount had a stake in such significant British films as Alfie (1966) and if.... (1968). After ABPC was sold to EMI in 1969, MGM formed a short-lived distribution partnership in 1970 with EMI which lasted until 1973. EMI formed a tripartite distribution arrangement with Warner and Columbia in 1978,

British film industry's identity and Hollywood[edit]

The British film industry has a complex attitude to Hollywood. It has been argued that the size of the domestic British cinema market makes it impossible for the British film industry to successfully produce Hollywood-style blockbusters over a sustained period without U.S. involvement.[20] American subsidiary Miramax took over Anthony Minghella's The English Patient (1996) when the production ran into difficulties during filming. Technically an American production, the film won 9 Oscars.

"In film as in society at large, America’s influence has now reached levels and depths previously unimaginable," said critic Geoff Brown, referring to the Americanisation of British film culture in the 1990s. He cites as examples Hollywood coverage and the use of language in publications like Empire magazine, as well as dominance of big-budget American films in multiplexes,[21] but he also notes that this is an industrial matter: The Full Monty was entirely financed and distributed by one of the US majors, Twentieth Century Fox, […] The praise went to Britain, but all the film’s profits went to America."[22]

Conversely, BBC critic Mark Kermode believes that "the movie industries of Britain and America are inextricably intertwined", citing numerous examples of how Hollywood provides work to British production staff and studios, whilst Britain enables Hollywood to base their prestigious productions at UK studios.[23] He refers to British director Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Inception as British rather than as American films, and yet "when a movie which looks quintessentially ‘British’, such as The King's Speech, achieves equivalent success, everyone suddenly starts writing articles about the state of our national cinema as if it somehow exists in isolation."[24] He agrees, nevertheless, that ‘the real problem’ is distribution rather than funding: "only a scant few secure the width of distribution that allows an extensive audience."[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "All time Box Office Worldwide Grosses." Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  2. ^ Barry Ronge's Classic DVD : Alice in Wonderland, The Times, It was made under the personal supervision of Walt Disney, who called them his "English Cycle".
  3. ^ "Andrews, Julie (1935-)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  4. ^ "Burton, Richard (1925-1984)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  5. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/465673/
  6. ^ "Caine, Michael (1933-)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "Chaplin, Charles (1889-1977)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  8. ^ "Connery, Sean (1930-)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  9. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/873595/
  10. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/480058/
  11. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/480266/
  12. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/474377/
  13. ^ "Leigh, Vivien (1913-1967)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  14. ^ "Niven, David (1910-1983)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  15. ^ "Olivier, Laurence (1907-1989)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  16. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/471039/
  17. ^ "Sellers, Peter (1925-1980)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  18. ^ "Winslet, Kate (1975-)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  19. ^ Sarah Essen "Paramount-British Productions" in Brian McFarlane Encyclopedia of British Film, London: Methuen/BFI, 2003, p.506
  20. ^ "Funding the UK film industry", BBC News, 20 September 2001. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  21. ^ Brown, Geoff; 'Something for Everyone: British Film Culture in the 1990s' in British Cinema of the 90s, London: BFI Publishing, 2000; p. 32
  22. ^ Brown, Geoff; 'Something for Everyone: British Film Culture in the 1990s' in British Cinema of the 90s, London: BFI Publishing, 2000; p. 33
  23. ^ Kermode, Mark; 'The British Aren’t Coming…or Going’ in The Good, The Bad, and the Multiplex , London: Random House Books, 2011; p. 227
  24. ^ Kermode, Mark; 'The British Aren’t Coming…or Going’ in The Good, The Bad, and the Multiplex , London: Random House Books, 2011; p. 228
  25. ^ Kermode, Mark; 'The British Aren’t Coming…or Going’ in The Good, The Bad, and the Multiplex , London: Random House Books, 2011; p. 234