Reginald Baker (film producer)

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Reginald Poynton Baker
Born Reginald Poynton Baker
(1896-07-19)19 July 1896
Leytonstone, Essex, England
Died 31 January 1985(1985-01-31)
Sydney, Australia
Residence Loddenden Manor, Staplehurst, Kent
Occupation Chairman and managing director of Ealing Studios
Spouse(s) Gwendolyn Emily Christabel Baker née Webb
(m. 1917, died. 1962)
Children Capt Peter Baker
Relatives Leslie Forsyth Baker (brother), film executive

Reginald Poynton Baker, MC, FCA, FRSA, (19 July 1896 – 31 January 1985), was a British film producer and a major contributor to the development of the British film industry. Along with his younger brother Leslie Forsyth, he played a decisive role in establishing Ealing Studios. He was the father of Conservative MP Peter Baker. Baker died in Australia aged 89.

From 1943 to 1946, Baker was president of the Kinematograph Renter's Society of Great Britain and Ireland (KRS) and from 1950 to 1953, president of the British Film Producers Association (BFPA).[1]

He lived at Loddenden Manor, a 300 acres estate, Staplehurst, Kent until 1954.[2]

Family and early life[edit]

A soldier, a successful accountant and a movie magnate, Baker was descended from an old Norfolk family, the fourth of the five children of Samuel Henry Baker (1866–1918), a manager of chemical works of 44 James Lane,[3] Leytonstone[note 1], Essex and his wife Jane Louisa[note 2] Baker (1870-1955) née Christoffer,[11] daughter of builder John Cort Christoffer (1834–1913).[12]

He married in 1917 Gwendolyn Emily Christabel, daughter of Arthur Webb, a Draper from Romford, Essex.[13]

Baker was a remote relative[14] of British Army officers Sir Arthur Borton and Brigadier General Neville Travers Borton Pasha CMG (1870-1938), Postmaster general in Egypt and British military governor of Jerusalem[note 3], the first incumbent of the office, due to health problems was replaced by Sir Ronald Storrs. Baker was also related to Neville Arthur Blachley Borton.


He studied at the University of London.[15]

World War I[edit]

At the outbreak of World War I, Baker joined the Essex Yeomanry as a Private. He served on the Western Front with the 17th (Poplar and Stepney Rifles) Battalion, London Regiment, one of the units of the 5th London Brigade, rising through the ranks, he reached Captain.

World War II[edit]

On 17 June 1939, Captain Baker (late of 17th Lond. R) was raised to the rank of Major.[16] On 1 February 1941, Major Baker of the Territorial Army Association Cheveney, Yalding, Kent, (19th Battalion kent Farningham) was awarded the Military Cross and promoted to the Acting rank of Lieutenant colonel.


Baker fought for a seat in the House of Commons in the 1923 general election, he is described as an Independent candidate.[17]

Other notable family members[edit]

Formation of Ealing Studios[edit]

A co-founder of Ealing Studios and a key figure there for some 30 years, 'Major' Reginald Baker became one of Britain's best-known producers.

Following his WWI service, he worked in accountancy[28] negotiating the purchase[29] of Gainsborough Pictures' Islington site[note 6] from Famous Players-Lasky on behalf of Michael Balcon. The studio was small but well equipped with the latest American cameras and lighting equipement and fully staffed.The staff included an ambitious young man whose name would soon become famous, Alfred Hitchcock.

Before moving into film production, Baker was a partner in the firm of Berger,[note 7]Baker and co[note 8], Chartered Accounts and Business Consultants at Southampton Row, London, the firm had connections in the film industry.

When theatre producer Basil Dean and actor Gerald du Maurier founded Associated Talking Pictures (ATP) in 1929,[32] Baker was first to join the management team, quickly followed by textiles heir Stephen Courtauld. Construction costs on the company's new studios at Ealing having doubled by late 1931, he and Courtauld arranged additional finance, ensuring production continued.

All together about 60 pictures were made there over the seven years from 1931 to 1938 such as Perfect Understanding starring Gloria Swanson and Laurence Olivier, other coming stars started their careers there like Madeline Carroll, Margaret Lockwood or director Carol Reed

In 1938, with ATP struggling, he invited[note 9] his former Gainsborough employer Michael Balcon (at that time, head of MGM-British) to take over the studio from Dean; Balcon subsequently hailed their 20-year partnership as the most successful of his career. An early collaboration was The Ware Case, which helped move Ealing beyond the Gracie Fields and George Formby vehicles that had been the studios' trademark.

Ealing Studios developed into the nearest the British film industry ever came to a studio after the classic Hollywood pattern, like, Warner Brothers in the thirties, Ealing had its roster of personnel, directors, writers, and technicians on permanent salary, its pool of actors, its recurrent thematic preoccupations, and from all theses there was derived a very recognizable house of style of film making. Ealing became the most famous British film studio in the world.

Baker was, like Balcon, a vocal critic of what he saw as the monopolisation of British film exhibition by the Rank Organisation, and in 1944 he negotiated a more favourable co-production and distribution deal for Ealing.

Backed by Rank's ample resources, Ealing entered into its finest period with the national epic Scott of the Antarctic, classic adaptation Nicholas Nickleby, romantic costume drama Saraband for Dead Lovers, the supernatural with Dead of Night. Most often remembered for its comedies such as Hue and Cry, Passport to Pimlico, The Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets starring Dennis Price, The Man in the White Suit and the black comedy The Ladykillers.

However, following the withdrawal of Courtauld's financing in 1952 having relocated to Rhodesia the previous year due to failing health,[34] he and Balcon were reluctantly forced to end this arrangement, selling the Ealing lot to the BBC in 1955 and relocating to MGM's Boreham Wood studios.[35]

The last Ealing film appeared in 1959.

Films produced by Baker[edit]

See Ealing Studios (1930–1959).

Later life[edit]

In the aftermath of his son's imprisonment for fraud and forgery,[36] Baker became a major creditor of many of his son's seventeen companies,[37] he sold off some of his assets including his Kentish manor.,[38] his son's art collection[note 10] went up for auction at Sotheby's in 1966-68.[39]

Baker retired to Australia, the home of his two grandchildren,[40] he died in 1985, he was survived by his widow Maxine Poynton Baker née Murray-Jones (1913–2007), a friend of Australian playwright and critic Sydney John Tomholt (1884–1974).[41]

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael Balcon Presents...A Lifetime of Films, by Michael Balcon, published by Hutchinson, 1969.


  1. ^ The Bakers of Southwell Grove House (later known as Eagles House, a large dwelling-house composed chiefly of bricks) originally descended from James Baker (1745–1822), a Norwich[4][5] merchant and a shrewd businessman based in London,[6] and his spouse Martha Kerry (1743-1819) of Diss in Norfolk, he was the founder of the Baker fortune,[7] his eldest son and namesake settled in Leytonstone in late 18th.[8]Southwell Grove House stood next to Park House,[9] home of Sea captain Joseph Cotton, director of the East India Company between 1795 to 1823.
  2. ^ She applied for a judicial separation including the custody of her four children on the grounds of physical and phychological abuse, 5 October 1907.[10]
  3. ^ General Allenby was welcomed by Borton and other officials including T. E. Lawrence, Jaffa Gate, 11 Dec 1917.
  4. ^ The same Williams who intended to take Victorian novelist George Meredith as apprentice but plan fell through.
  5. ^ Baker took part in the liberation of the Dutch town of Aalten (29–30 March 1945) and under enemy fire, he led the King's company of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards supported by the tanks of No 2 Squadron commanded by Lord Wigram across a small bridge and was seriously wounded,[22][23][24] despite sustaining heavy casualties, the Grenadiers captured the Bridge and seized control of the town.[25]
  6. ^ The new Gainsborough Pictures company was renamed Gainsborough Studios.
  7. ^ Joseph Archibald Berger (1899–1948), Berger served as a UNRRA Director Team in the Freising area of Germany from June 1945 until July 1946. See Berger's unpublished manuscript untitled DPs are People Too , July 1946.
  8. ^ The partnership was dissolved by mutual consent , 20 January 1928,[30] it was renamed Baker, Todman and co (1929).The firm merged with Rooke, Lane and co (1966), with Amsdon, Cossart and Wells (1975) to form Baker, Rooke and Amsdons, later renamed Baker Rooke (1982), it became part of Baker Tilly in 1988.[31]
  9. ^ The two men met on a Atlantic liner, Baker share with Balcon his feelings that thing were not working well at Ealing, he offered Balcon to be the studio's new production head. Once back in England, Baker gave orders to have a plate inscribed with the name of Michael Balcon to be put up in the car park although nothing had been signed[33]
  10. ^ Among the valuable items sold at Sotheby's, Rudyard Kipling letter collection (1966).


  1. ^ "International Television Almanac", by Richard Gertner, published by Quickly publishing company 1979, p.15
  2. ^ "Country Life", volume 116, 1954.
  3. ^ "England and Wales, National Probate Calendar", (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858–1966
  4. ^ "Shirley and Keith Howell, Norwich City Freemen, 1752–1981", Norfolk Heritage Centre.
  5. ^ "A miller and a free baker of Mancroft Ward".
  6. ^ "146, Saint John Street, Clerkenwell".
  7. ^ "Will of James Baker, Malt Distiller of West Ham , Essex", proved 16 August 1822, PROB 11/1660/327, National Archives.
  8. ^ "Baker family of Leytonstone: family and estate papers", Reference L96 BAK/1-6, NRA 31033, National Archives.
  9. ^ "Park House in Leytonstone High Road", by David Boote, published by the Leyton and Leytonstone History Society, p.8.
  10. ^ "Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, later Supreme Court of Judicature: Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Files", National Archives, Reference J 77/921/7958
  11. ^ General Register Office, England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes,District.West Ham, vol. 4a, p. 311
  12. ^ "England and Wales, National Probate Calendar", (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858–1966
  13. ^ General Register Office, England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes,District.Romford, vol. 4a, p. 1094.
  14. ^ "John Kerry's family, he died c. 1780, and was a Wheelwright and farmer of Diss, Norfolk"
  15. ^ "British Film and Television Year Book", volume 9, p.15.
  16. ^ "London Gazette", issues 34636, p.4044, 16 June 1939.
  17. ^ "International Television Almanac", by Richard Gertner, published by Quickly publishing company 1979, p.13
  18. ^ "List of the Officers of the Bengal Army, 1758-1834: A-C", by Vernon Charles Paget Hodson, published by Constable 1927, p.78
  19. ^ "Stock Exchange Memorial of Those Who Fell in the Great War, 1914-1918", published by Naval and Military Press (2001).
  20. ^ "Oxford Type, An Anthology of Isis, the Oxford University Magazine", by Andrew Billen and Mark Skipworth, published by Robson Books, 1984, p. 13
  21. ^ "World Who's who in Science, A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Scientists from Antiquity to the Present", by Allen G. Debus, published by Marquis-Who's Who, 1968, p. 466.
  22. ^ "The Guards Armoured Division, a short history", by Gerald Lloyd-Verney, published by Hutchinson (1955), p. 140
  23. ^ "The Story of the Guards Armoured Division", by Lawrence Michael Harvey Parsons, 6th Earl of Rosse and Edward Roderick Hill, published by Geoffrey Bles, London (1956), p.222
  24. ^ "We Were Brothers In Arms", by Frank Clark, published by Matador (2013) , p.308
  25. ^ "The Grenadier Gazette, THE REGIMENTAL JOURNAL OF THE GRENADIER GUARDS", 2011, Issue No .34, p. 32-3
  26. ^ "London Gazette", issues 36961, p.1173, 27 February 1945.
  27. ^ "Michael Beloff, ‘Jones, (John) Mervyn Guthrie Griffith- (1909–1979)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", published by Oxford University Press, Oct 2010.
  28. ^ "The Accountant",volume 62, p.332.
  29. ^ "Michael Balcon Presents...A Lifetime of Films", by Michael Balcon, published by Hutchinson, 1969, p.21.
  30. ^ London Gazette", issues 33352, p.716, 31 January 1928.
  31. ^ "Chartered Accountants in England and Wales A Guide to Historical Records, by Wendy Habgood, published by Manchester University Press (1994), p.89.
  32. ^ "The History of British Film", volume 4, by Rachael Low, published by Routledge 1997, p.195.
  33. ^ "The New York Times Encyclopedia of film", volume 1, by Gene Brown, published by Times Book, 1984.
  34. ^ "Michael Balcon Presents...A Lifetime of Films", by Michael Balcon, published by Hutchinson, 1969, p.183
  35. ^ "BFI Screenonline", based on article by Richard Hewett.
  36. ^ The Advocate"M.P Gaoled For Seven Years", 2 December 1954, page 2.
  37. ^ "Great parliamentary scandals: five centuries of calumny, smear and innuendo", by Mathew Parris and Kevin Macguire, published by Robson 2005, p.136
  38. ^ "Illustrated Particulars, Plan and Conditions of Sale of the Freehold Residential and Agricultural Property Loddenden Manor, Staplehurst, One of the Most Attractive Residential Estates in Kent. Modernised XIIth- century Manor House", By Real Estate agents Knight Frank and Rutley, 23 pages, 1954
  39. ^ "The Business Background of Members of Parliament", by Andrew Roth, published by Parliamentary Profile Services, 1975, p .84
  40. ^ "Time Out of Life", by Peter Baker, published by Heinemann, London, 1961, p.231
  41. ^ "Australian Dictionary of Biography", volume 12, 1990

External links[edit]