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British filmmaking is generally written off as a series of creative failures and economic disasters. Nevertheless, great directors, amazing films and even, for a time, successful production companies have evolved in Britain. James Park presents a history of British filmmaking, from the earliest pioneering days to the present. He shows how ruthless American salesmanship and a lack of British initiative crippled the efforts of early filmmakers. Only with the arrival of sound in the 1930s did they regularly achieve popular success, with films such as Hitchcock's "The Thirty-Nine Steps", as well as musical comedies centred around the likes of Gracie Fields and Jessie Matthews. After the Second World War the increased ambitions of filmmakers led to such masterpieces as "The Red Shoes", "The Third Man" and "Kind Hearts and Coronets", but the dark undercurrents in such pictures went against the grain of the major institutions responsible for financing British films during the 1950s. The revival of the 1960s petered out when American finance was withdrawn. And the creative energies triggered by the formation of Goldcrest Films and Channel Four in the early 1980s were rapidly dissipated by over-ambitious companies and over-confident directors. James Park takes a challenging view of the successes and failures of the British cinema. Only when filmmakers learn to appreciate their own cinematic heritage and film executives come to understand the virtures in earlier models of production, can British filmmaking hope for significant achievements in the 1990s.
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