Skyfall – Pinewood Film Studios

Pinewood Film Studios at Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire has been the home to most of the James Bond films – and many many more as well.

An iconic view of the entrance to Pinewood.

The Garden Walk at Pinewood.

Pinewood Studios was built on the estate of Heatherden Hall which was a large, attractive Victorian house with spectacular grounds. In 1934 building tycoon Charles Boot bought the land and turned it into a Country Club.

Then later in 1935  millionaire  flour magnate  J.Arthur Rank created a partnership with Boot and together transformed the estate into a film studio.  In December of that year construction began, with a new stage completed every three weeks. The studios were finished nine months later having cost £1 million (approx. £37 million at 2012 prices). Five stages were initially completed and there was  provision for an enclosed water tank capable of holding 65,000 gallons and taht is still in use today. In later years both the Pinewood and the Denham Film Studios justup the road  had by then become a part of their newly-formed Rank Organisation.

 

On 30 September 1936, the studio complex was officially opened and  the first film to be made entirely at Pinewood was Talk of the Devil directed by Carol Reed.

There followed a hugely prolific part of Pinewood and British film history.  Pinewood soon was leading the way in film industry innovation through a system that enabled several pictures to be filmed at the same time and ultimately Pinewood achieved the highest output of any studio in the world.

Denham closed in 1952 effectively with Walt Disney making the last ever film there which was The Story of Robin Hood starring Richard Todd and Joan Rice – a particular favourite of mine.

I always loved Denham Film Studios and wonder what might have been if the focus of J.Arthur Rank had been there instead of Pinewood. After all the two were built at around the same time but Denham was considerably larger and built on such a scale to rival anything in Hollywood or anywhere else come to that.

Then we move on to the fifties at Pinewood which saw films such as in The Doctor series and  Norman Wisdom with his own brand of comedy films. They did extemeley well at the Box Office during that decade. 

In 1960 came an ill-fated venture when some of the biggest sets ever were constructed for Cleopatra but Liz Taylor became very ill with pneumonia and the whole production was then moved to Rome.

 Above – the gigantic set for Cleopatra 1960

1962 saw the dawn of Pinewoods most famous enterprise- the James Bond franchise that began when Terence Young directed Dr. No.

In the same year  Lord Rank announced his intention to retire as chairman. He was to be succeeded by John Davis, who had consciously moved the Rank Organisation away from film production towards more profitable areas like bingo and holidays. The sixties were buoyant years for Pinewood, with more and more American pictures being shot there in the wake of Bond and Disney’s global success. Pinewood was no longer solely dependent on the Rank Organisation to fill its stages. The studios 30th birthday was celebrated in 1966, and worked had started on new stages to accommodate every aspect of film and TV production including  new viewing theatres, new cutting rooms and sophisticated stage lighting systems.

The seventies were an uncertain period for Pinewood although more television productions aimed at family entertainment were filmed there  including  The Persuaders starring Tony Curtis and of course our own Roger Moore – later to become Bond.  

In March 1972 J. Arthur Rank  died.  He played a great part in the formation of the British Film Industry as we know it

By that time though the Rank Organisation was in a healthy state.  The Superman films held things together through the 70s.      In the 90 s  many large-scale productions such as Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket and Tim Burton’s Batman kept Pinewood ticking over.

The  summer of 1999 saw the inauguration of two huge new state-of-the-art sound stages as the first phase of Pinewood’s on-going expansion plans. As the new Millennium dawned, the Studios were acquired from The Rank Group PLC by a team led by media magnates Michael Grade and Ivan Dunleavy.

An iconic scene – At Shepperton Film Studios – One of THE great film scenes for me anyway.

 Early in 2001, it was announced that Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios had successfully completed a merger under the Pinewood Shepperton name. I still to this day hold a very few shares in that company although in 2012 there was a takeover by Peel Group from the Isle of Man so maybe those shares will become the subject of  a compulsory purchase order – who knows.   Either way there has been little upside in the price so any sale would be academic really.

 

Later in 2011 we saw the production of Skyfall with much of the film being shot at Pinewood – and compared to previous Bond films there were very few exotic locations – even the scenes in Shanghai were in the most part done back home with necessary shots cut in at strategic places.

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